Mica was a goldfish that lived in a glass bowl. He lived most of his life bumping into a glass divider which kept him from crossing to the other side of the bowl. One day the divider was removed, but Mica swam in the same pattern as before never crossing the bowl.
This is because he could no longer imagine what it would be like to cross to the other side. He was free to do something he’d always wanted to do, but he’d tried so many times and failed, that he gave up trying even though he had more freedom than ever before. Many of us ACONs have found ourselves in a similar situation. We’ve had our chains taken off and we’re free to run, but some of us have forgotten how to move.
Most of us can be grateful for four types of freedom:
1. Physical Freedom
The people who once controlled us physically no longer tower over us and they have no more power over our physical bodies. We are now free from pinching, hitting, belting, going to bed without supper and all other forms of physical abuse.
We are no longer told what to wear or not wear or where to go or not go. We can celebrate the fact that we are no longer under the forced labor rules in our family or origin. We are no longer asked to work to please another or give them our earnings to fill their narcissistic feed.
We can associate with whomever we want and we organize our lives however we like. We no longer need to endure imprisonment or isolation—the gates are wide open and we can walk free as we choose. The work of healing has begun.
2. Mental Freedom
Once we recognized how the narc’s lies and gaslighting once controlled us, we find a mental freedom. Truth really does set us free. As we become seekers of truth, we step out of the narc’s land of denial and allow truth to change us.
We discover we can start over again by making new choices and learning new patterns. We don’t have to spend time with people simply because we are related. We have the right to nurture relationships with other people who are honest and respectful. Our new friends become the family we choose.
3. Emotional Freedom
Emotional freedom removes our fear and shame as the truth has reveals all the narcissist’s lies. We are no longer beaten children cowering in a corner. We now know we are not responsible for the feelings of others. It empowers to realize we don’t have to justify our own feelings—that feelings are neither right nor wrong—they are simply information. Like the Tibetan proverb, we realize we are the mountain and not the weather and so we wait for the sun to shine again.
Most important, we have discovered love–partially from realizing what love is not and partially from experiencing love with people who are actually able to give and take with honesty and respect. When the narc or flying monkeys try to shame us for not meeting their standards, we realize they have no power over us. We are no longer slaves to their emotions or expectations. We recognize shame only comes from an enemy and we walk away from anyone who uses it against us.
4. Spiritual Freedom
Our greatest freedom is to believe or not believe, to worship or not worship. We discover God is not like the narc who uses coercion and deception to abuse us, but he has set us free to make our own choices. We recognize it is an oxymoron when people say they represent God, yet force others to fit into their mold and bear their standards. Many of us have studied and discovered there is no thing as everlasting hell—that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance and Jesus came to win us with love.
We are free to acknowledge or celebrate God in whatever ways inspire and fulfill us. We have the freedom to express our beliefs whether others approve of us or not. We are unshackled by the expectations, rules, standards and conspiracy theories of others. We’ve been given freedom as a birthright by the one who designed us to live as unique individuals. We are now free to become our true selves.
These four freedoms become more apparent the longer we have lived away from the narcissist. In different stages of our lives, we might even celebrate one more than others. The biggest lie we received from the narcissist was that they owned us and we were responsible to them for how we lived our lives, but now we know nothing is further from the truth.
So keep these four freedoms in mind if you see family this weekend. And if you realize you have no healthy relationships because your family members lack honesty and respect, find some new family. The best way to find a friend is to be the kind of friend you would like to have.
Let’s embrace and celebrate each of these four freedoms this weekend as we honor those who have died for our freedom, because without freedom, we’ve got nothing.