Finding Boundaries

18 Feb

Many ACONs* work hard to meet the needs of other people–probably due to the empathy factor. Because ACONs are high in empathy, they often try to rescue their boyfriends, husbands, parents, siblings and grown children. Grown children is a good term for many of the people we try to rescue. It’s not wrong to care or show compassion, but it’s wrong when we do it over and over again to the very people who are abusive to us.

Have you ever had someone rage and yell at you in anger–only to look for a way to calm them down? Has it ever occurred to you that it was never your responsibility to calm them down or pay their bills or make them happy? No matter who this rageaholic is in relationship to you, other people’s emotions and behavior are NOT within your jurisdiction.

Fixing others might be a long term habit and you might even do it without thinking, so it’s important to ask yourself the question, did you grow up feeling responsible for your parent’s feelings? If so, you are not alone. Many ACONs did.

What we didn’t realize while we were growing up is that our narcissistic parents were stealing our boundaries before we were old enough to claim them. Boundaries help us differentiate where we end and our parents begin. And no one–not even a parent owns another person. I was in my forties before I understand boundaries. If you were not taught boundaries, it’s worth reading up on them, so let me say it again:

Boundaries separate what we own from what we don’t.

Boundaries help us differentiate between what we are responsible for and what we are NOT responsible for. If you grew up in a family with messy boundaries, it might be hard as an adult to find your boundaries.

Little Red and Wolf No Contact, Little Red Survivor Art

No Contact accessories available in Etsy Shop. Click on picture.

Sometimes people misuse the term boundaries to issue more control. I heard of a reader whose parents always talked about boundaries and used the term to say they were not going to help him with anything. They were negligent and self-centered parents and his understanding of boundaries was confused because he thought of boundaries as walls that shut other people out. What his parents modeled was not healthy boundaries–but a wall of self-protection.

For years, I avoided reading about boundaries because I too, mistakenly thought of them as a wall. After I read Henry Cloud’s book, I realized boundaries are more like a gate. A gate is a device that either blocks or opens allowing us to decide who and what we let into our lives.

There were times as a young adult that I felt responsible for my family members. I made the mistake of paying their bills before I paid my own. My boundaries were totally confused because I felt responsible for what belonged to others. I wasn’t using the gate to determine where my responsibilities begin and end.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with helping someone, but we first need to take responsibility for our own bills–otherwise we might fail to pay our bills and end up with our money problems affecting someone else’s boundaries. We might even find ourselves out on the street because we were too nice to pay our own bills and paid someone else’s bills. Sometimes being nice is not a virtue–not if you fail to pay your own bills and help someone else. Finding our boundaries helps us utilize our time and resources. The protocol for using an oxygen mask on an airplane demonstrates basic boundaries–if we don’t breathe, we can’t help anyone else.

There is a fallacy called ad misericodiam where a person cries for someone to give him money–not because he is willing to work, but because he needs the money. Most people who need someone else to pay for them or expect others to make them happy are not talking responsibility for their own boundaries.

There is a proverb that says:

A short-tempered man must bear his own penalty;
you can’t do much to help him.
If you try once, you must try a dozen times!
-Proverbs 19:19

In a narcissistic family, the boundaries were scrambled. You were probably taught to feel responsible for your parent’s feelings–while they ignored yours. And you were probably blamed for making them sad, while they didn’t want you to express your own sadness. Sometimes all you had to do to make them sad was tell the truth. Do you realize how unfair this is? If telling the truth made your parents sad, this was not your fault–it was their fault for not living better lives.

Many ACONs were told, “If you would just stop complaining, everything could be fine.” IOW–It doesn’t matter if you were taken out of school and moved for the fifteenth time. If you are crying about it, then you are ruining the family spirit. This concept is a not only a gaslighting technique, but it’s a fallacy. First of all, you were never responsible for the feelings and reactions of your family members and second, you have a right to your feelings and you don’t need to justify why it hurt you to be hit with a belt or say goodbye to your friends every time you moved.

Because the blurred boundaries in an enmeshed family create all kinds of false shame and emotions that were not even yours to begin with, it’s important to understand boundaries to differentiate where your parent ends and you begin. Your parents are not living in your body, so only you can decide how to take care of yourself. They are not earning your money, so only you can spend it. They were not given your vote, that is yours to cast as you believe.

When people blow up or shun you because they are disappointed with your choices, they are asking you to give them something that was never theirs in the first place. Your individuality, your dreams, your beliefs and your vote are your God-given birthright and no one has the right to take them from you. You cannot give these things away and remain whole. You are the only one responsible to God for your choices.

If you just discovered boundaries and have been giving your parents your power, it’s never too late to take it back. A simple rule of thumb is to let others decide for themselves and insist on making your own choices.

In the video below, Dr. Henry Cloud gives a short intro to Boundaries and what they are, if you have never read his books you will be blessed.

*ACON Adult Children of Narcissists

Sharing Love and Hope Because of Maddy

15 Feb

This last week, I woke up saddened by the death of an innocent college student and started writing on my phone from bed and posted it. At the time I felt my feelings were so raw and personal, I almost didn’t post. It’s turned out to be my most read blog ever with over 1222 reads and 168 shares as of this posting! But anyone can write about their thoughts of doubt and pain about death, it must be so much harder to live through such an experience. Even though I don’t know Maddy’s mom personally (I go to church with her Grandma) I am deeply touched by the way she has handled this most devastating event.

Maddy’s service will be held today at 6:00 pm, at the Walla Walla University Church. I’m sure it will be a well attended and well thought out event. If you would like to see how a loving mother deals with her faith in a time of greatest pain, you can follow the progression of her loving care for her daughter’s memory on the Facebook page Share Love for Maddy. (I will included the link below.) Here is an except:

“I look in the mirror I see a different women. One that is strange, altered and a unsure. One that is so brave, strong and loved. One that understands deeply Gods great love and incredible sacrifice. One that is over joyed to have complete assurance that Madison my daughter is safe, free from pain and that she lived her life out loud, wild and free.”

And the post that touched me the most and brought fresh tears to my eyes was this one–

“National Donor Day!! My Maddy gave her heart away…. Happy real Valentines Day!!!”

What faith does it take for a mom to rejoice that her beautiful daughter’s death will give the gift of life to someone else?

It can only be her strong faith in God that is sustaining her.

Someone wrote to me and said, “How beautiful is this mother’s faith throughout her pain! I want to know God and have a faith like that! How precious she and her daughter must be to Jesus!”

I would definitely call her brave.

I heard a speaker once say God has an honor guard–a group of people who will stand for His character though the heavens fall around them and I believe this mother is showing the world what this looks like. The honor guard knows God did not do this–that an enemy exists who causes pain and death. When other people shake their fists at God, there will be a group of people who regardless of what happens to them will continue to say–

Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name

Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say

Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name

You give and take away
You give and take away,
but my heart will choose to say
Blessed be Your name

RIP Maddy! Thank you for sharing your strong faith Maddy’s Mom! The day is coming soon when you will hold your daughter again!

Share Love for Maddy on Facebook

Not Safe, but Good

12 Feb

It’s happened again. Someone beautiful and young has died way too young. A young college student going for a bike ride on a beautiful day was hit by a truck and has died. It was the worst kind of accident because the person who hit her wasn’t drunk or breaking any traffic laws. The sun was in his eyes and there is no person to blame. And when there is no person to blame, I don’t know about you, but I want to blame God.

I want to blame God because He has all power and He could of stopped this horrible event, but He didn’t.

I want to blame God because even after the event happened, He could still have healed her, but He didn’t.

I want to blame God because even after death, He could of brought her back to life, but He didn’t.

Thousands of people shared a picture over a prayer request, so it seems the least God could do was answer all those prayers of faith and heal her, but He didn’t.

Tears in a Bottle, Little Red Survivor Art, Cherilyn Clough

Click on picture to buy print.

Our expectations of God are leaving a lot of broken-hearted people with a question on their minds even if they don’t say it out loud (and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t cross my mind too) what is up with God?

And more specifically with Jesus–the same Jesus who woke up a little girl already dead, the same Jesus who called Lazarus out of the grave and raised Himself from the tomb.

For me, it’s never been a question of can God heal?–but will God heal?

I was taught to always specify that God’s will would be done, but that has always seemed like an out so we have an excuse to explain to unbelievers when the answer is no.

And I hate no answers. At times like this I to want to scream and pound on God’s chest because it feels like we’ve been snubbed in our darkest hour.

But then I am left with the rest of life in this world where beauty and kindness still exist–although less so when good people die–and people echo back and forth to each other that “God is good all the time.”

And at times like this, I want to pound and cry at heaven’s door, “Show me your goodness once more! Just throw me something, God!”

Well it’s true, part of God’s goodness is that He is not put off by our fears and tears, doubts and shouts and tantrums. He just stands there while we blame Him and He can take it because He realizes our blaming comes from our pain.

I imagine God is hurting too because maybe His hands were tied. What? Does that sound like crazy talk? I just said maybe He couldn’t stop this stupid accident from happening. Well what kind of God is not able to have complete control? The kind of God who gives away power to humans and angels.

Tragic events will never stop stunning me or you–

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.”

Not everything that happens is God’s will–

Jesus said, “Pray for my will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Even when the unspeakable happens–

Jesus says, “An enemy has done this.”

It’s discouraging to realize we are living in a war zone between God and his enemy–an enemy who never plays fair, but we’ve been given a promise that God will work all things together for good despite brutal attacks from God’s enemy.

My dear friend Amelia has had a bad week. Just a couple weeks ago, she found out she had thyroid cancer and then had surgery and now she has been dealing with all kinds of dizziness and sickness due to hormone and calcium imbalances all week. She has young children and I can only imagine how hard it is to want to be up and about doing things for the kids you love but have to be lying in bed. Today she posted:

“Just suggesting, please, all of you, avoid cancer. Drink green tea, rest a lot, and fill your life with happy. And if you do get cancer, you’ll be OK because God stays close by.” Even in her pain and sickness Amelia is saying God is good.

Jesus says, I will never leave you. Even in our sickness and loss and pain, God is for us and not against us.

As we remember the beautiful life of this beautiful, young college girl, I see how it might have happened–full of joy and love and light–a light so bright that God’s enemy wanted to destroy the influence–but all that really happened is that her short life will shine even brighter now.

She will shine brighter because the enemy cannot snuff out her influence on thousands of people who knew her or read about her. And as she gives life to 8-12 other people because she is an organ donor, she will shine even brighter. Through her sacrifice, Jesus will possibly bring other people back from the brink of death to live a little longer so they too, can know the Jesus she loved. Not that God can’t work miracles alone, but because He has given all freedom of choice, He chooses to work through people and their choices. This young women will have the honor of giving along with God—and this is how God wins the war against His enemy.

Her last words were “I can’t believe what a beautiful day it is!” And by the time she wakes up, she’s going to say those words again with even greater emphasis and joy.

By then we will have gone through our own transformations–perhaps the people she gave life to will be there too. Maybe the life she lived will contribute to someone else living forever. When we consider our short lives on this earth compared to eternity we are all just waiting to go home.

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?
Your life is like the morning fog–
It’s here a little while, then it’s gone.
-James 4:14

Scary world we live in, but I love the way C.S. Lewis describes Aslan.

He’s not safe, but he’s good.
-C.S. Lewis

The same can be said of God.

Have courage broken hearts, because eventually we will all say, “God is good all the time.”

Here is a great podcast for those who wonder why God lets bad things happen to good people–

After Collision with Truck, Walla Walla University Student Madison Baird Passes Away

Valentine’s Love Give-Away

8 Feb

Hi ACON Friends!

Over the last year my blog readership has quadrupled and I owe it all to my readers. I am just as grateful for every like and comment as I am for each sale in my Etsy shop. THANK YOU!

To say Thank you I have decided to do some giveaways this week for Valentine’s Day, because you all deserve the love!

Every piece of art and product I carry was designed to help you as an ACONs or victim of abuse to celebrate the steps on your healing journey.

When I send you a prize from a giveaway, I’m excited to send it to you because I know these items are a reminder of how far you have come and they will inspire you to keep moving forward from survivor to thriver.

Everything Shapes Us Travel Mug, Little Red Survivor on Etsy

So here is how to play the Valentine’s Feel the Love game–

Share this blog on FB or comment below on which is your favorite item from my Etsy shop and I will enter you into a drawing for an Everything Shapes Us Travel Mug just like the one above. The mug is ceramic on the outside and stainless steel on the inside. It was made at Red Bubble so you know it is a quality mug and it’s also worth $32. I will make a drawing for everyone who shares this post or comments below telling me what their favorite thing is in my etsy shop. To find the shop just click on the picture. You have until 6:00 PM Tuesday, February 10 for this drawing. I also have some flash drawings on FB, so check in on the Little Red Survivor FB page to win cards, a print, a Kitteh tote and some other cool stuff.

Have a great week and remember love is not love until it’s given away. However, at the same time remember love deserves to be reciprocated in a healthy relationship, so don’t pour all your love into someone who refuses to give back–You are worth a reciprocal love relationship!

Happy Love Week!
Cherilyn

My Child, My Mirror

7 Feb

When many people hear the word narcissism, they think of the legend of Narcissus who was so vain he worshiped his image in a pond until he fell in and drowned. I once saw a cartoon of a father staring at his own reflection in a lake while his daughter kept calling out, “Daddy?!” The image suggested she was neglected while he adored himself. This cartoonist understood the neglect that comes from a narcissistic parent, but he only got it half right–because for many narcissistic parents, their child is the mirror.

Like many ACONs, you may have been used like a mirror for your narcissistic parent. Such parents are not satisfied unless they can see their own values and choices displayed in their child. Narcissistic parents see their children as an extension of themselves, they use mind control to shape their children at a young age to become mini versions of themselves. If this is true, you may have been robbed of your ability to shine.

Shine, Little Red Survivor, Cherilyn Clough

This mirroring pattern continues into adulthood and is manifested by parents quizzing their adult children on their religious beliefs, politics and spending habits. Appearances are everything to these narcissistic minds. They want all of their children to be in the church and vote as they would vote and eat what they would eat on holiday dinners. They want us to do as they would do so they can feel satisfied they have raised us to reflect them in the way they want to be portrayed in the world.

By refusing to acknowledge their child’s individuality, such parents are selfish to begin with and nothing you can do will fix this. As you pull away to become yourself, they will become more controlling, then disillusioned and bitter when you fail to live up to their expectations. As you begin to vote differently or leave the church or form your own holiday traditions, the war will intensify.

The battles are subtle at first, a glance of disappointment, the suggestion you might be letting down the whole family because you have chosen differently. But as most ACONs know, the failure to reflect our parents–to vote, marry and worship as they would have us live our lives eventually brings on a cascade of narcissistic behavior from gaslighting and scapegoating to the silent treatment.

There is no better time to reclaim your individuality than now. There is no better way to reclaim your boundaries by standing up to let your voice be heard, but beware the narc parent will accuse you of everything from ruining the party to being ungrateful or disloyal or not honoring your parents. They might use everything from scripture and flying monkeys to lawyers to straighten you out.

When this happens it’s important to ground yourself in these truths–

1. No one–not even a parent owns the choices of another human being. Slavery is defined as controlling another person’s choices.

2. God created you to be yourself–not an extension of your parents. Look in the mirror and recognize your own face.

3. You will never feel at peace until you live authentically.

As you listen to your own voice and the voice of your Maker, you will begin to shine. It might seem a little scary at first, but you can forge a new path from your family of origin. When you reach that fork in the road where the sign reads narc parent vs. your own choices, don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled, step into your individuality and shine.

Valentine’s Flash Sale–10% Through the 10th

5 Feb

Hey ACON Friends,

I’ve been working hard on some products just for you! I’ve made art that speaks to my soul because it’s hard to find good Narc ammunition.

So if you are looking for a novel gift for your self or the special survivors in your life, if you act soon you might still get something delivered in time for Valentine’s Day.

Have you ever just wanted a Flying Monkey Pillow
to set on the sofa as a reminder
for the Monkeys who visit your house?
Me too.

Flying Monkeys Green PillowOr perhaps you need a No Contact Travel Mug
for that extra pick me up to remember
how you are footloose and fancy-free!
no contact Mug

Have you ever gone on a trip with narc
and wished you had a Trust Your Gut Tote
so you could’ve remembered to stick with your first impressions?
Oy! Me too!

Trust Your Gut ToteOr perhaps you, like most of us ACONS,
just need permission to Speak the Truth–
even when your voice shakes.

Speak the Truth PillowLet’s honor the words of Maya Angelou:

My mission in life is not merely to survive,
but to thrive;

and to do so with some passion,
some compassion,
some humor, and some style.

Shine Flower Tote

You can find all of these and more at 10% off through the tenth
at Little Red Survivor Art on Etsy.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/LittleRedSurvivorArt

 

Heaven’s Flash Mob

30 Jan

Someone posted my favorite flash mob video the other day. And that got me to thinking. What does it feel like to be welcomed? Do you have someone who welcomes you? Someone who is so thrilled to see you they don’t care what you’ve done or where you’ve been? I hope so. Sometimes our family members welcome us and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they welcome us until we disagree and then they can’t wait to show us the door, but that’s not unconditional love.

When Petra was a little kid, her dad always came home from work and gave her a big bear hug. To get a hug from him was pure love and affection, but as she grew older and didn’t always agree with him, he hugged her less and less. She told me how it still hurts her heart to this day because there is nothing she would like more than to give her father a big bear hug, but he barely speaks to her.

Religious abuse happens because people misrepresent God’s character. Many of us grew up going to church with fear messages and shame trips. Some of us couldn’t handle the fear and shame so we left these caricatures of God and religious symbols behind and decided to go it alone.

I can’t blame anyone for rejecting a god who threatens to burn you in hell if you don’t do what he wants. Would you marry someone who says, “Love me or I will kill you?” I sure hope not and I hope you don’t worship a god like that either—although that’s what the church has erroneously taught for centuries.

I Stand for Love, Little Red Survivor Art

 

Many ACONS have been ostracized or scapegoated from our families, so it’s hard to imagine a God who runs out to give us a hug, but that’s how Jesus describes the Father.

The prodigal son has destroyed his own life. He’s used up his father’s money. He’s ruined the family reputation. He’s been so wanton and careless that he has nothing left and now eats with the pigs.

Even though many ACONs have been treated like the black sheep of the family, this prodigal was a true black sheep in every sense of the word. He has no worth in the eyes of the world, but he is as valuable as ever to the heart of his Father.

This is how we can know for sure God is not a narcissistic parent. The Father, who has been used and forgotten by his son, has never forgotten his child. He waits by the window everyday watching for a caravan or a shadow in the distance that might give him hope of his child. And finally, when he recognizes the gait and sees a familiar slouch, he runs out to meet him.

He doesn’t quiz him to check his theology or asked if he’s gotten saved. He doesn’t smell his breath for alcohol or examine him to see if he has any new tattoos. He doesn’t ask him to pay back the money he’s taken. He doesn’t ask if he’s been sleeping with men or women or pigs. He doesn’t do anything but welcome his child with open arms.

Then the Father calls for a party. He gives his son the finest clothes in the house. He restores his status in the family by giving him a ring of authority to represent the family business. The musicians arrive, the dancers dance and the barbecue is set up. No one can be sad when the master is so happy.

I’ve tried to dream of such a homecoming when we all get to heaven. The closest thing I can imagine is a huge family reunion at an airport. What brought it home for me was this flash mob ad at Heathrow Airport in 2010. I love all the songs, but I especially love the last song.

Welcome home, welcome
Come on in, and close the door
You’ve been gone, too long
Welcome, your home once more.

Can you imagine how heaven’s welcome might look like a huge flash mob of angels? As people swarm through the gates, we can finally set all of our baggage down for good and dance with the angels.

Then, at the end of the line, dancing and singing are Jesus and the Father waiting to give you a big ol’ bear hug! And as the Father hugs you, he whispers in your ear–

You are not what you have.
You are not what you do.
You are not what other people say about you.
You are the Beloved!
–Henri Nouwen

 

Is It Name Calling to Call Someone a Narcissist?

29 Jan

Have you ever had someone accuse you of name calling because you identify your family member as a narcissist? Most of us didn’t go looking for a label to call our parents. Some people just don’t get it because they’ve never had to live through the abuse that comes with narcissism. They might even be apathetic.*

For many of us, it was a relief to discover the term narcissism to describe our parents’ lack of empathy. Even though we use the term narcissist like a noun, the word narcissist is not as much a label for someone’s identity, as it’s a category to describe behaviors we have experienced. We wish it weren’t so, but the proof is in the behavior. If it walks and talks like a narc, it probably is a narc.

Calling someone a narcissist usually occurs because they have become toxic in their behavior toward others. Recognizing these narcissistic behaviors is simply one way to create awareness and protect ourselves. If we fail to recognize the gas-lighting, scapegoating, lying, manipulation and flying monkeys for what it is, we will continue to be abused over and over again.

Little Red Survivor, Valley of the Shadow, Cherilyn Clough

Little Red 23rd, Valley of the Shadow

 

While narcissism personality disorder should be diagnosed with a professional, most narcissists hate counselors and will usually avoid counseling at all costs, so all we can do is get counseling for ourselves. Once we have gathered the facts from an expert opinion and realize there is no other explanation for such behavior, most Adult Children of Narcissists find it a relief to recognize there is a name for what they have been experiencing.

It’s ironic that the very people who once called us names are the ones who complain because we refer to them as narcs. Many of us have struggled with self-worth for decades due to the names our parents called us.

Consider how the words lazy, ignoramus, chunky, chubby, klutz, idiot, loudmouth, stupid, brat and snot actually harm the child’s psyche that grows up with such labels. Some narc parents never stopped calling their children names. Even in adulthood, they just use more sophisticated names like selfish, irresponsible, inconsiderate, ignorant and loser.

We don’t label our parents narcissists because we wanted to get even with them for calling us names–remember most ACONs** are the empathetic ones in the family and most don’t even want to hurt even an abusive parent. Calling someone a narcissistic is not a gut response or an attempt to get even–it is simply piece of the puzzle to our ruined relationship with the narc parent for years.

Adult Children of Narcissists is the term we use to recognize other people who have been through what we have endured. While it’s a name we call ourselves, it reflects negatively on our parents, but it also gives us a way to find other people suffering from the same issues who can provide us with support. Avoiding such labels would only isolate the survivors. Most ACONS have lived lives of secrets and isolation due to the control of narc parents, so it’s time to step out into the light.

For some people the only way to healing is to name it and claim it. Calling someone a narcissist is not name calling, it’s simply recognizing a chain of symptoms that can only be described as narcissism. There is no shame in calling a rose a rose. Just as Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” a narc by any other name would stink the same.

* Check out the Empathy Trap Book to learn more about the empathetic, apathetic and narcissistic triad.
**Adult Children of Narcissists

Speak The Truth–Even When Your Voice Shakes

23 Jan

I can still feel the tightness in my throat. It felt like my heart was in my throat choking out my words. Trembling because I knew if I spoke my truth, the “Persuader” would come out and my legs would pay the price. It seemed too much to ask to go to school. To have friends. To know my relatives. To not move again. To not be hit because someone was in a bad mood. Narcissism has many moods and one of them is violence.

Domestic violence does not always look like a man hitting a woman. Sometimes it just looks like discipline on the end of a belt or stick, but physical scars might fade, but the the scars on the heart linger. This is why I often say, “What happens in childhood never stays in childhood.”

I received my first spanking when I was one week old. My parents didn’t beat me at the time, but they felt they needed to control me. I was lying alone in my crib and crying for attention and they decided to hit me so I wouldn’t get spoiled.

Speak the Truth Even When Your Voice Shakes Meme

Speak the Truth Even When Your Voice Shakes Meme

As I grew into what they called “the terrible twos,” I was spanked until I could no longer cry. While I don’t remember these early events my parents told these stories to me to reinforce the fact that they were in control. As I grew, I was an eyewitness to them belting the terrible twos out of my three siblings.

Each time we moved there were two things that went into my parents’ bedroom—my mother’s hope chest and the belt on the back of their bedroom door that they affectionately called, “The Persuader.”

My entire childhood was ruled by the Persuader. I did everything I could to please people and be a good girl to avoid an encounter with the Persuader and my father’s temper. This meant not complaining about moving every six months or asking about going to school. This resulted in four kids not having an education. The last year of education for my youngest two siblings was first grade in an accredited school and third grade if you count a loopy, religious child labor curriculum in a non accredited church school.

Throughout my childhood and teen years the Persuader never left my mind. It influenced every decision I made. Decades after I left home, I still felt unsafe to mention what happened to anyone. Even with my own friends and husband in my own home, the Persuader had almost convinced to remain silent.

In my forties, I began to blog about the painful secrets and tried to make sense of my life. I wrote about a pivotal beating I received for whispering in church. A belting that left my legs covered with bruises and caused me to distrust God and hate church for most of my life. Even though I used a pseudonym, my family members thought it was out of line. I tried to explain how I needed to share my story and help others and I have to say my relationship with them has never been the same.

This is where narcissism comes into play. Even if people are not full blown narcs, to lack empathy and to ignore their children’s pain—first in childhood and second in adulthood, fundamentally breaks the relationship. Jesus said two cannot walk together unless they are agreed. When a parents ignores their child’s pain at any age it only deepens the wounds.

The last time I saw my parents, they quizzed me on my theology for three hours. I came in love, hoping to patch things up. I wished we were equals and they would recognize we all make mistakes, but most importantly, we all have a right to our feelings and memories. When I mentioned the lack of schooling and the beltings–how we could never talk about it even as adults and how their choices forced on me, affected way too many days of my adult life. I was told “If you had not jerked around so much, Daddy wouldn’t have had to hit you with both sides of the belt.”

They’ve accused me of not forgiving, but it’s not true; I forgave them over and over. Forgiveness is not the missing ingredient, empathy is the missing ingredient and until they can respect my right to use my voice and tell my story, we will continue to have a gulf between us. It’s not the way I want it, but I can no longer ignore who I am to be who they want me to be. I can no longer allow the fear of the Persuader to choke out my voice.

I haven’t always enjoyed reliving the painful moments of my life, but what I do know is that speaking them out loud helps. Realizing God not only sees all the days of my life, but allows me to speak of all the days of my life has brought profound healing to me.

In June, a program was launched through HopeLine called “Because Voices Have Power,” a national campaign designed to increase awareness of domestic violence and provide a platform for the public to send messages of hope to victims and survivors. For each message of hope shared, Verizon has committed to donating $3 to local and national domestic violence prevention organizations across the country.

They have already collected over 10 million phones nationwide, while donating over $18 million dollars to domestic violence organizations. A great explanation of the program can be found here: http://www.verizonwireless.com/aboutus/hopeline/index.html

Today, I add my voice to the Voices of Hope because our voices do have power. Please feel free to share this blog and retweet or make your own tweets with the hashtag #voiceshavepower

And no matter where you are or what has been done to you, you CAN speak the truth–even when your voice shakes.

Narcissism 101

14 Jan

After feeling alone for decades and wondering what was wrong with me, I began to hear story after story from members of the ACON* group that sounded exactly like my own. Many times I was blown away by the similarities and I am not the only one who has had this experience.

We all have a little narc in us or we wouldn’t even groom ourselves. Narcissism is a spectrum–and while we all fit on the scale at some point, toxic narcissism has a cycle or a pattern that seems to repeat itself in home after home.

Boundaries, Be True to Self Meme

Boundaries–know self, be true to self, own choices, practice self-care and honor all.

 

I realize some people think that by calling our parents narcissistic, we are calling them names, but most of us didn’t go looking to label our parents. Many of us struggled with self worth for decades because of the labels and criticism our parents gave us. Calling the mystery narcissism was not a gut reaction, but a calming balm of relief to a third degree emotional burn that has plagued many of us for years.

We didn’t diagnose our parents, we simply gathered facts and realized there is no other explanation for the mystery we have been trying to solve. It’s sort of like finding out that striped horse is actually called a zebra.

So what are the stripes we now recognize as narcissism?

1. A Violation of Boundaries.
The narcissistic mother sees the child as an extension of herself. She wants the child to reflect her at all times and she also views all resources of the child as hers. In such a world of no boundaries, it’s difficult for the child raised by such parents to stand up for himself. He or she doesn’t know how to take responsibility for themselves because they’ve been raised to let their parents tell them what to do. If they vary from the parent’s wishes, they will experience shunning or abandonment so younger ACONs often try to stay close to the parent to please them.

2. Lack of Empathy for How They Affect Others
This violation of boundaries is often made possible due to lack of empathy. If a parent truly imagined what it is like to be their child, they would treat their children with more respect from childhood. Empathy allows a parent to imagine how it feels to have the belt stinging their legs or what it is like to go to bed without supper while the scent of popcorn drifts down the hallway. As their children grow into adulthood, empathy reminds them to own and apologize for their mistakes and love their grown children unconditionally. Lack of empathy is often manifested by a parent who talks about their adult children when they can’t control them. There is research that says many narcissistic parents recruit their most empathetic child to do their bidding. So while narcissists are low on the empathy scale, they definitely have a use for it in other people. For more on this topic read The Empathy Trap Book.

3. A Desire to see Their Own Reflection in Their Child

Like Narcissus who stared at his own reflection in the pond, a narcissistic parent stares into their child looking for their own image and doing all they can to mold their child into a mini me. This does not end when the child becomes an adult. It often continues until the parent dies.

When the parent fails to see what they are looking for, they will keep trying to teach and remake their child into their own image for their entire lifetime which results in the adult child never feeling good enough.

I have to wonder how many new parents hold their precious new born and whisper, “You’d better meet my needs or I will ruin your life and reputation.” No, they say doesn’t he or she look like me? And while all parents look to see what this baby will look like, the extreme is the narc parent who never grows past that stage to view their child as an individual. By never acknowledging their child’s individuality, they are ignoring healthy boundaries.

Perhaps narcissism grows out of selfishness and a survival of the fittest mentality where people feel they need to destroy their enemies and sadly, with the parent’s lack of empathy, their children become their imagined enemies because they failed to meet their expectations.

4. The Not-So-Fun Circus of Manipulation
All of these add up to a cycle of patterned behavior:

A sense of entitlement and refusal to follow the law
Manipulation by lies, mind games and gaslighting
Recruitment of flying monkeys
Playing the victim,
Seeking revenge and
Ostracizing the scapegoat

These behaviors might happen in stages or at different times, but eventually patterns will emerge.These are all are part of the narcissistic agenda or better known as the narcissistic circus. A polish proverb has it right:

Not my monkeys, not my circus.

If only it were that easy, but most narcissistic parents will do all they can to ruin their child’s reputation when they won’t go along with their plans. Many ACONs will tell you their narc parents have spent hours taking notes about their enemies and researching how to win their case in court and sadly many of them have been sued by their own parents. Having a narcissist for a parent can be a continual abuse–first in childhood, then in adulthood and even after discovery of the problem it seems like the wounds never really heal.

The only solution for healing is love. But the narcissistic parent doesn’t seem able to love their child. If they did, they might not have abused them in the first place. They wouldn’t be angry if their adult child remembers the abuse and they would apologize, rebuild the relationship to show their child unconditional love.

All of these things could happen, but don’t hold your breath. By it’s very nature extreme narc behavior focuses on self and cannot bear to be wrong, so if your parent is a true toxic narcissist, these symptoms of love will never happen–they will simply go on talking about you until the day they die.

So to recap, we are not name calling, we are identifying a chain of symptoms that can only be described as narcissism. These four possible identifiers are all based on selfishness–

1. Violation of Boundaries and Using Others

2. Lack of Empathy for How They Affect Others 

3. A Desire to see Their Own Reflection in Their Child

4. The not-so-fun Manipulative Circus 

If you have been treated in these ways, if you have been feeling not good enough and alone most of your life, If you feel you cannot be yourself with your family, just say no to narcissism. There is a world full of people who DO have empathy and people just like you who are worthy of love, go out and find them.

*ACON — Adult Children of Narcissists

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