Not Your Kind of People

18 May Crow

If you’re an empathetic person, you could easily become the target of a toxic narcissist. This is not your fault, but awareness can help you avoid such pitfalls. When it comes to supplying their needs narcissists know there is no one more likely to keep feeding them than an empathetic person.

Empathetic people have been known to put their own bills on hold to pay for someone else and if that someone else is not holding down a job, they are probably a narcissist.

The narcissist has a victim mentality. The boss didn’t like them, so they fired them. The landlord didn’t like the way they decorated with spray paint and graffiti, so they asked them to leave. They would pay their bills, but they can’t find a decent job—decent being relevant to their ego’s demands. Besides why work when you can get people to work for you?

Crow

 

An empathetic person who has been raised by a narcissistic parent might be at high risk for becoming codependent. They have been trained to give and give and they learned to get their self-worth through giving because the narcissistic parent only valued them for what they could give them.

Recovery from codependency is a lonely job for the empathetic person because who in the family cares? Not the apathetic family members who want you to be quiet and stop causing trouble and certainly not the toxic narcissist who wants you to keep feeding them your resources.

It seems bleak, but in reality the person with the most empathy wins–but only when we learn to turn a deaf ear to the victim’s whining and the flying monkey’s accusations.

Here’s the thing: the toxic narc and flying monkeys want to heap tons of shame on you because you’ve acknowledged a situation they wish to ignore. Once you’ve swallowed the truth pill, there’s no going back.To hang out with victims and flying monkeys is impossible—you’d have to check reality at the door.

No matter what they accuse us of or how they try to frame us, we are not their kind of people and we never will be because we have empathetic hearts. It’s time to heal and find some empathetic friends. Like the words in the song below, to be an empathetic person, is not to be a flawed person like the narc would have us think, but it means we are extraordinary people.

We are not your kind of people.
You seem kind of phony.
Everything’s a lie.
We are not your kind of people.
Something in your makeup.
Don’t see eye to eye.

We are not your kind of people.
Don’t want to be like you.
Ever in our lives.

We are not your kind of people.
Speak a different language.
We see through your lies.
We are not your kind of people.
Won’t be cast as demons,
Creatures you despise.

We are extraordinary people.
We are extraordinary people.
We are extraordinary people.
We are extraordinary people.

Check out The Empathy Trap book:

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The REFLECT Project: Convicts’ Letters to Their Younger Selves

16 May

We’ve all been chasing Eden in different ways and everyone has a story to tell. The REFLECT project by Trent Bell is an amazing and heartbreaking way in which some prisoners are sharing their stories. They give powerful insights into the ways our choices shape our lives. This project is important and it is just as important to acknowledge our own past and share our stories.

“When you stand and share your story in an empowering way,
your story will heal you and your story will heal somebody else.”
-Iyanla Vanzant

“In early 2013, commercial photographer Trent Bell was shocked by the news that a friend – an educated professional, a husband, and a father of four children – had been sentenced to thirty-six years in prison. Over the proceeding months, Bell found himself haunted by not only his friend’s bad decisions and loss of freedom, but also moments in his own life when things could have easily taken a bad turn. “There were times when my son would look up and smile at me,” recalls Bell, “and the finality of my friend’s situation would rush into my head and I would hear a cold thin voice say: ‘…there, but for the grace of God, go I…’” Bell, who is known for his architectural photography in publications such as the Conde Nast Traveler, Design New England, and The New York Times, soon conceived of a photo project that would merge large-scale portraits of inmates in the Maine prison system with handwritten letters the convicts composed as though writing to their younger selves. “Our bad choices can contain untold loss, remorse, and regret,” says Bell, “but the positive value of these bad choices might be immeasurable if we can face them, admit to them, learn from them and find the strength to share.” “REFLECT: Convicts’ Letters to Their Younger Selves” is an artistic documentation of choices, consequences, and reflection. Bell’s portraits—along with video documentation by Joe Carter and additional prison guard portraits by Corey Desrochers. For more information visit: trentbell.com

From the artist’s own website you can read the letters:

http://www.trentbell.com/REFLECT-Project/2/caption/

Tale of Two Mamas

8 May

It feels like I’ve had two mothers in my life, but she was the same woman. I remember the mama who polished the pipes under the sink, kept the house spotless and made sure I didn’t get any germs in my mouth. I remember the mama who drove all over town to find me a dollhouse for my sixth birthday. I remember the mama who wrapped a present carefully with a red square lollipop tied in with the bow so I could take it to a birthday party when I was seven years old. I remember the mama who taught me how to make sure my clothes matched and who took pride to sew me a little coat and dresses and the occasional Barbie doll outfit. I remember the mama who was a glowing hostess and once made a cherry pie complete with lattice crust which was the most delicious pie I’ve ever eaten, but I never saw her make one of those pies again. Within a year we ended up homeless and living in an abandoned saw mill.

While we lived at the sawmill, my mom encouraged us by making it an adventure and telling us it was like going to summer camp. She showed us how to sweep out our tents and straighten our beds and wash the camp dishes. After our chores were done, we went for “hikes” and then we took naps. Four children, eight years and younger must have been quite daunting for a young mom to keep happy. We picked wildflowers and sang songs and listened to stories. Every few hours my next oldest sister and I would run to ask mom, “Is this what summer camp is like?” We had to keep checking in because she was the only one who had ever been to camp and we want to make sure our experience was up to par.

That abandoned sawmill was a turning point between my first mama and the mom I know now. I don’t know how she did it going from her high hopes and high expectations to living in a tent and then a cabin without water and electricity. There were motel rooms and house after house and another cabin or two. Move after move, which happened every six months or a year; her furniture fell apart and was destroyed in the moves. The cedar hope chest and bookcase made out of mahogany she built herself–sometimes it felt like our family might fall apart too, but mom wouldn’t let it.

It’s hard to care about keeping things clean when you have a rough wood floor and your children have no place to play but outside in the dirt all day. It’s hard to worry about keeping things clean when you can only go to the laundromat once a week. It’s hard to keep your kids clean when you have to take them to the state park to put in a quarter to give them a shower once a week. And it’s hard to do dishes when you have to chop the wood to build a fire, then haul the water to heat up on the stove before you can wash them.

It’s hard to keep hope alive when every time you start to make friends you have to say goodbye. And it is hard to hold your head up high to relatives and people you once knew, when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from or you are going to get kicked out of the place you’re renting. It’s confusing to love a man who moves as often as his moods. No matter what my mom has ever done to me, I’ve seen her. I know the stuff she’s made of and I’ve taken courage from who she was then and who she is now. No matter how hard life gets, she has taught me to look to God and hold my dignity. For that I will always be grateful.

I don’t think my younger siblings remember that first mama, but I do, I have missed her for most of my life. I know the mama who was excited for me to go to school and learn to read and the mom who gave up on me getting an education. I know the mama who said she hated it when my dad belted me in anger and the mom who said if I didn’t jerk around so much he wouldn’t have to hit me with both ends of the belt at the same time. I know the mama who had a spotless kitchen and the mom who cooked in the dust over a campfire.

I’ve spent much of my life working hard to please my mom and win her love. She said she had her babysitter first and she taught me to vacuum and wash dishes when I was four. I cleaned and cooked and packed for close to forty moves in twenty years. All I wanted was for my mom to be happy and love me back. It’s the twinkle in her eye fading through the years that breaks my heart the most. I’ve tried for years to fix it, but I can’t, there’s not enough money or time in the world to fix our parents or a child. Our journeys might intersect, but in the end, we must take them alone.

I haven’t spoken as much with my mom lately–partially, because when I call, my parents seem more worried about my theology or the kind of music I listen to than what’s actually going on in my life. All I’ve ever wanted is to spend time with them, but they are always too busy even for a phone call. I guess their parents might have done the same to them, so I don’t hold it against them. In some ways religion has become a wedge in our relationship and that makes me sad because I don’t think Jesus planned it that way. But no matter what she says or does, I will never stop loving my mom.

I am sharing Peter Hollens’s version of Shenandoah. My mom used to play this on the piano while I played my flute. Oh how I miss those days! And in case you are reading this, I love you Mom!

Making Beautiful Things

6 May

We are most like God when we are creating out of love.
-Mark Merizan

One way to reclaim our joy is to imitate our Creator who is the author of beauty and truth. We can do this through art, woodworking, writing, music of all kinds and baking for others. When we create anything out of love, we find a piece of the child God intended for us to be.

photo (13)

 Cookies are made of butter and love. –Norwegian Proverb

This last weekend, I made dozens of sugar cookies and took them to the Ladies Tea at my church. I love to make sugar cookies with royal icing because I think of them more like art than food.

When I was eleven, my teacher said we were going to have potluck for our Christmas party and everyone needed to sign up on the list to bring something. I whispered that my family was broke and I couldn’t bring anything. My teacher, thinking he was doing me a favor, said just bring ketchup. What he didn’t know was my family did not use ketchup and thought of it as a bad food.

When I told my parents, they did not want to buy ketchup for the Christmas potluck at school. My mom said she had a dollar and fifteen cents to her name and the ketchup would cost sixty-nine cents. She also said I could just skip the party since it was not really a school day.

By fifth grade, I had already moved many times and struggled to make friends, but at this school I made friends with two sisters who had beautiful long hair and they were always nice to me. I felt like I finally had some friends to hang out with and it broke my heart to think of missing that party.

My entire family sat in the car outside the grocery store and I argued, cried and begged until they let me buy a bottle of ketchup. I got my way, but I felt horrible about it. I felt like less than a bottle of ketchup and cried myself to sleep that night.

The day of the party, I took my bottle of ketchup and set it on the table next to some beautiful angel cookies with royal icing. I knew my parents did not want me to eat eggs either and I knew there were eggs in those cookies, but they looked so pretty I could not take my eyes off of them.

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Then a lady who was helping out smiled at me and said, “Go ahead, I made those cookies for a girl just like you.” I looked around to make sure my sister didn’t see me, then I ate that angel cookie very slowly savoring every crumb. I never forgot that woman. She was so kind, but I never even knew her name.

At the Ladies Tea, we were privileged to have a beautiful little girl at our table. She was very polite and sweet. Her grandma had an owl cookie that I made and she asked for it. I cannot tell you how much joy I get when children (and even grown ups) love my cookies. At moments like this I know I have come full circle. I am not just a consumer, I am a creator of beauty and love.

I didn’t learn to crack an egg until I was thirty-five. The memory of that beautiful cookie was part of my healing process. Food that is beautiful nourishes the heart as much as the body. These cookies are not health cookies and they aren’t on my table except once or twice a year, but it is the act of creating something that brings a smile to others that I love the most. So here is the recipe. Go out and find some cookie cutters that thrill you and have fun making cookies for someone special.

SUGAR COOKIES  

2 sticks butter or margarine

2 C sugar

2 eggs

2 t vanilla

4 C flour (sifted)

1 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

PREHEAT: oven to 350

BEAT: butter and sugar in mixer until creamy

ADD: egg and vanilla and beat until smooth

STIR: flour, baking powder and salt

ADD: flour mixture gradually to butter mixture

ROLL: into a ball and wrap with plastic

CHILL: in fridge for one hour

ROLL: out and form into cookies

BAKE: for 10-15 minutes or until barely brown
Do NOT over bake

COOL: for a few minutes and remove from sheet
and finish cooling on rack

ICE: with Royal Icing

Snowflakes

ROYAL ICING

 

1 lb confectioner’s sugar

5 T Wilton’s meringue powder

1/2 C water

Wilton gel food coloring of your choice

BEAT: all icing ingredients with paddle
in electric mixer until mixed,
just don’t over mix or
it will cause bubbles in icing

SPREAD: immediately on cooled cookies
or store in airtight container

Wilton has bottles that work well
for flooding and icing the cookies.
They make it easier than using bags for icing
especially if you have children helping you.

photo (40)

While you are baking, enjoy this song of wonder by Gungor.

Gaslighting

5 May Feet

When you tell the truth and the narcissist doesn’t like it, they will employ a method called gaslighting. The term comes from an old 1944 movie where a husband tries to play with his wife’s mind until she doesn’t believe her own instincts and memory.

The narcissist gaslights you because they hope to confuse you and make you doubt yourself. If they can get you to doubt yourself, then you won’t remind them or anyone else about what they are lying about.

Feet

It starts like this: You say you remember such and such, and they say you don’t even know what you are talking about this and that happened instead. Now you know the truth, so you insist on it. Then if they can’t get you to forget or think you don’t remember, they will try to tell you something is wrong with your head. They will say, “You must be mentally ill to believe this is true.”

You still insist on the truth, so to reinforce their gaslighting techniques they will try to pull in a flying monkey who will accuse you of making stuff up. The flying monkey could be a younger sibling that wasn’t old enough to remember the incident.

All of this is very disheartening because you know the truth and you thought your parents loved you, but there is one even weirder twist for the person raised as a Christian. Your parents were the ones who told you about God and made you memorize that Bible verse about lying lips being an abomination to the Lord, so how could they be twisting the truth? This is where the truth might be stranger than fiction.

We don’t know why people do what they do, but there comes a time when you have to use all your mental resources to remember and remember well. Look through old pictures and write down everything you can remember from your childhood. Visit the places of your childhood. When you have written down your memories, you can interview safe family members like aunts or uncles or grandparents to find out their take on the situation.

This is not living in the past, but remembering the past. It is only by looking at where we’ve been that we can move forward. Those who refuse to examine their past are often stuck in addictions.

You don’t need to put up with mind twists anymore. You are a grown up now and you have been given a sound mind and you can claim the truth. The very people who told you that God doesn’t approve of lying may have forgotten that God is always on the side of the truth, so don’t let people lie to you.

Mother’s Day Card Shopping

5 May

My friend Amy just spent two hours looking for the perfect Mother’s Day card. It has to be a color her mother likes or she will hear about it. It has to say just the right thing, but it can’t be too endearing because Amy doesn’t want to lie. It also can’t be too empty or her mother will not feel loved. Amy struggled and stood in store after store until her feet were aching, then she gave up. Her mom probably won’t get a card this year and it will feel unloved, but before you judge Amy, you need to know the rest of the story.

Amy was five when her mom remarried and eight when her step dad raped her for the first time. She told her mom and her mom called her a liar. From then on for the rest if her growing up years, her mother blamed Amy for the problems in her marriage. Amy left home at sixteen because she could not take the molestation any more.

Amy had to become her own mother because her mother did nothing to help her grow up. She didn’t help her graduate or figure what to take in college or even help with her wedding. Even now, her mother only calls Amy if she wants her to do something for her. It goes without saying that Amy’s mother is toxic and narcissistic and now because Amy never found a Mother’s Day card, her mother will be playing the victim card for months to come.

There are some people, like Amy, who grow physically ill on Mother’s Day and they get even worse when they realize Father’s Day is next month. They are not cold hearted people–but rather empathetic adult children if narcissists who have likely shown more nurturing and love to their parents than their parents have ever shown them.

Sometimes people who grew up with loving parents can’t empathize with people like Amy and they wish she would get over it. The truth is Amy never really had a mother because her birth donor chose to live her life as though she had no daughter.

So what is the Christian thing for a daughter to do? My mom isn’t perfect and I’m not a perfect daughter, but I’m sending her a card because I love her. Loving people realize no one is perfect and look beyond each other’s faults, but I am not sure Amy should send her mom a card. When it comes to buying a card as insurance against the fear of what they will say, it can’t be done in love. There is no other reason to give a card unless we love someone.

God doesn’t ask us to lie or fake it. Something in the relationship has to change and maybe by any being honest Amy will preserve her own integrity. God bless you Amy. God bless all the broken children who grew up without a loving mother. God sees all and He cares for you.

Flying Monkeys

4 May Flying-Monkey-Alone

After years of emotional abuse and verbal put downs, Ava finally found the guts to stand up to her narcissist mother and go no contact. She began to realize more peace in her life because her mother wasn’t constantly calling her and asking what the children were wearing or what she was making them for supper. But her mother’s phone calls were soon replaced by her sister’s.

Ava had always gotten along with her sister, but now her sister was checking up on her. At first it was very subtle, but soon it became apparent that her sister felt Ava was being mean to their mother. Ava asked why she felt this way and her sister launched into an all-out attack on Ava. She called Ava, selfish, irresponsible and coldhearted.

Flying-Monkey-Alone

Ava was shocked and felt betrayed. Her sister knew what mom was like, but she now took their mother’s side. Feeling alone and cut off Ava stopped answering her sister’s calls.

Ava didn’t realize what was happening, but her sister had become a flying monkey. If you’ve ever watched the Wizard of Oz, you probably know about flying monkeys. Flying monkeys often don’t realize what they’re doing. They become the extension of the narcissist to attack whoever the narcissist is upset with.

A narcissist acts as the director of a play. From their point of view, people are only as good as whatever they can use them for. If they can’t use you, they will make you into the scapegoat. Once they get a scapegoat they will recruit some flying monkeys. Their goal is to pressure you into whatever they want you to do, or shame you for not going along with their plan in the first place.

Flying monkeys are vulnerable to the narcissist because they often don’t have their own opinions. They are followers who reflect what other people say. Their toxic remarks are not their own, but reflect the opinion of the narcissist.

There is good news and bad about flying monkeys. The good news is they really don’t know what they are talking about, so don’t take them seriously. Their comments are just more smoke and mirrors from the malignant narcissist. The bad news is they will need to think for themselves before they can see the light and be a good friend to you.

In moment like this, it might feel like the narcissist has all the friends, but you and I know that’s not true. Narcissists don’t have close friends because they don’t know how to nurture anyone–unless they are grooming them for narcissistic feed.

You still realize what the narcissist is up to and you now know you can’t trust the flying monkey. The booby prize goes to the poor flying monkey who has been tricked into trading your good and honest friendship for the lies of the narcissist. But you can’t tell them this, they will need to discover it for themselves.

All you can do is pray for them and enjoy the loyal friends and family you have. Take comfort in the words of Jesus.

But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you.
For the time is coming when everything
that is covered will be revealed,
and all that is secret will be made known to all.
-Matthew 10:26

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