My cat Minkah growls at the same neighbor every morning when he gets in his car to go to work. I wondered how my cat can discern a man’s character from so far away when he’s an indoor cat, until I heard the man beating his dog one day. Then I realized my cat, who sits in that window observing the people coming and going every day, might be more aware of the sociopaths in the neighborhood than I am.
We love animals for several reasons. For one thing they give us unconditional love when we treat them right. And two, we can often see their intelligence when we look into their eyes. I think God created animals with intelligence and He meant for us to communicate with them, but sin has distorted what God meant to be a reality. Despite the fall, we find reminders and signs of intelligent life in the animal kingdom. Many pet owners can tell stories about their dog or cat or horse or bird who communicates with them. Even while I’m typing as I write this, my cat Kitteh came up to wave her paw alongside the table where I am typing, telling me to get out the laser so she can chase it.
Many narcissists don’t like animals or only like them when they can use them. Animals can be used for affection like narcissistic feed, but often they are quickly disposed of when the narc is annoyed with them. The ACON* forums are full of stories from people whose narc parent abused animals. This might be because the spectrum of narcissism includes sociopaths who have no conscience.
Our animal friends lead the way to more healing both through their unconditional love and through example. A couple of animals that help us ACONs to live better life stories are giraffes and elephants. Dr. Karyl McBride who wrote the book “Will I Ever Be Good Enough?: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers,” describes how a tall giraffe is able to look over the landscape and see beyond the horizon. She says ACONs should be able to stand tall above the insanity in our families.
When we see the bigger picture, we can afford to take our time to answer a question or not answer at all. We can afford to speak the truth because we are not bound to the narrow minded view of the narcissist. And while many of us have had to deal with flying monkeys remember the monkeys might fly but they are programmed much like a drone and do not think for themselves. What sets the giraffe apart is that she can see far and wide and overlook all the drama below.
I love Dr. McBride’s idea so much that I began to picture a tall giraffe standing in her dignity. I also thought of the little child inside of each of us that needs to be set free from the oppression of growing up with a parent who paid more attention to their needs and whims than ours. I combined these two pictures into a piece of art I named, “Giraffe Girl.” I put McBride’s quote on it because it has such deep meaning for me. What ACON has not struggled to speak the truth? The gentle and wise giraffe gives us permission to stand tall in our dignity and speak the truth.
The second animal that applies to ACONs is the elephant. They say an elephant never forgets. I have heard many wonderful stories about elephants. One was about a missionary doctor who treated the wound of an elephant for days until she was healed. When she went home she didn’t see him anymore, but one day her owner came by the doctor’s clinic and stopped by to say hello. The elephant had tears running down her face to see her healer once again. Another man was called “The Elephant Whisperer,” and made a refuge for elephants. When he died, all the elephants for miles around and came and stood outside the compound where his body lay to pay their respects. No one brought them to the gate, they came on their own out of some unknown intelligence we humans do not have.
Because an elephant never forgets, she reminds us that it’s okay for us to remember. Many ACONs tell me that a rule in their family of origin was to forgive and forget. Often an abuser wants us to forget because they don’t want us to tell anyone what happened. Of course we know we are only as sic as our secrets. Remembering allows us to sift the good from the bad and to forgive because we can’t forgive what we can’t remember. Remembering teaches us who to trust, Remembering allows us to trust our gut. Remembering allows us to heal from the good we can glean out of our messy life stories. Remembering enables us to find our way home.
When I was a child, I was told I have an elephant’s memory. As I got older, my elephant memory was appreciated less and less. I was accused of living in the past or not forgiving, but I was doing neither. I just had to acknowledge what happened in the past so I could move forward to the present. Remembering allows us to live our best life possible. This inspired me to make a second piece of art I call “Elephant Girl.”
So remember like an elephant and stand tall like a giraffe—it’ll drive the flying monkeys crazy.**
*ACON–Adult Children of Narcissists
**For a reminder, you can find these pieces of art in several forms in my shop from prints and pillows to totes and phone cases. You can also find this art in card form. Everyone should be able to afford art—especially art that can change your life.