A Game We Can Never Win

This week I am writing about narcissism. I barely knew what the term meant seven months ago. I have several friends who kept posting memes from ACON* support groups on FaceBook which kept resonating with me. Then I discovered The Empathy Trap Book and realized I am a highly empathetic person which basically set me up to be used by other people.

I was empathetic by nature, but I was also groomed to be this way. There were many times I gave every penny I had to adult family members. I did this because I saw them as victims who could not pay their bills and felt responsible for them.

As a child I was praised whenever I gave all my money to my family. I was told, “You are so thoughtful.”  Being called thoughtful was the highest compliment I received from my parents. I allowed it to become my identity because I wanted their love and approval. I didn’t realize I was playing a game I could never win.



For one thing the rules can change overnight. Someone can complain about all their problems and you can loan them money, but they will use it for something else. You can call it loaning money, but most likely you are just giving them money. When it becomes apparent they did not use it to pay bills, but went shopping instead, you can call them on the change of plans, but they will just say you don’t remember the original deal because they always intended to keep their options open. This is a form of gaslighting.

If you tell them you gave up all your Christmas money and you feel they used you, they will ask to speak to your husband and proceed to tell him you are a liar. Of course it doesn’t work because he was there when you made the original deal. Then they will blame you because you offered to help them and they will insist they never asked for help. Well there was a lot of hinting, but yeah, you are at fault—at fault for caring about people who basically want to use you.

I’ve had people switch their diet from dairy to vegan overnight–on Thanksgiving when I was hosting. I’ve had people yell at me for giving my cousin a piece of apple pie on Christmas.  I’ve had people furious because I put an egg in a cake. I’ve had people make fun of me for trying to help them when they were suicidal.

I’ve also had people dis me in public for supposedly not being sensitive enough because I am not a mother—especially painful when I am one of the most empathetic people in my family. I bought a crib for one of my family members every time they had a baby and could not afford it.

Not only do the rules change, the stories change and when you try to tell the truth they will do everything they can to destroy your credibility. They will talk to everyone you know and write letters to judges and tell everyone you cannot be trusted because you are mentally ill. And if they have been telling you this since you were a child, for just a moment you might be tempted to believe them yourself, but then you realize this is a pattern and they had other villains and scapegoats before you, so now you know better.

Yeah, after reading half a dozen books on narcissism, I have come to the conclusion, I am an ACON who continued to play the hero for over two decades after I left home and there is no way to explain it except I wanted love. The only way I got love was to give them everything I had, but come to think of it—that’s not love, is it? I’ve been playing a game I can never win and now I just want to say, “I quit.”

*ACON—Adult Child of Narcissist

There is freedom in quitting. It’s like having a pocket full of sunshine. Oh yeah!

I got a pocket,
got a pocket full of sunshine
I’ve got a love and I know that it’s all mine

Do what you want,

but you’re never gonna break me,
sticks and stones are never gonna shake me

Wish that you could,
but you ain’t gonna own me
do anything you can to control me

Take me away (take me away)
A secret place (a secret place)
A sweet escape (a sweet escape)
Take me away (take me away)
Take me away (take me away
To better days (to better days)
Take me away (take me away)
A hiding place (a hiding place)

There’s a place that I go
That nobody knows
Where the rivers flow
And I call it home
And there’s no more lies
And the darkness is light
And nobody cries
there’s only butterflies

The sun (Son) is on my side
Take me for a ride
I smile up to the sky
I know I’ll be alright
-Natasha Bedingfield