Archive by Author

We Are Shaped by Our Stories

14 Jul

You’ve probably heard the saying, “We’re only as sick as our secrets.” One of my secrets is that my family was often homeless. It happened for a short time when I was eight years old. Then we lived in a cabin with limited utilities for most of seven years. During that time, we took our weekly showers at the state park. In my mid and late teens, we moved from campsite to campsite to motel and to cabin without any power or running water.

As I am writing my memoir of those years, I am struck by our resilience and our ability to ignore the fact we were homeless. We were more depressed over not going to school, so despite all the chaos, we never called ourselves homeless. My mom used to say she couldn’t wait until we lived like normal people. Not having real beds or a place to call home was hard, but the one thing my siblings and I longed for most was friends. We didn’t go to school so we only had each other and we missed the socialization and community of going to school.

My youngest siblings had at best a third grade education, but they only attended one year of formal school for first grade. At least I got to the sixth grade before my parents pulled us out of school. We are all good readers because of my second grade teacher who let me read all the way to the fifth grade readers. I learned so much from her that I eagerly taught each of my siblings to read before they even got to school because I was good at it and I loved reading so much.

The state of Washington had a law for kids between eight and fifteen to be in school. We were told my parents could be arrested and put in jail and we might get farmed out to foster homes if we were seen. We were told to hide below the car windows if we drove somewhere during school hours. We had to hide in the woods or the shed when someone came to our cabin or house. I lived in fear and dread of being caught.

Everything Shapes Us, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13519018-everything-shapes-us?asc=u&c=540575-healing-flowers

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All of this hiding and the loss of community and relationships further isolated our family. No one knew if we were belted, no one checked to make sure we had an education, no one realized we were homeless.  The worst part about all of this is we could not speak about these things.

Meanwhile we were told Jesus could come at any time so we needed to perfect our characters to be accepted by God or we would burn in the lake of fire. The cognitive dissonance I felt, still brings a tear to my eyes today. In my heart, I just knew I was lost because I was a fake and a liar telling people I was home-schooled, lying to bill collectors and hiding in a shed.

Whenever the world events inspired my dad to warn us about being ready for Jesus to come, I laid awake at night begging Jesus to forgive me, but doubted that he would. As I grew up and left home, these doubts still terrorized my soul. My dad referred to grace as cheap grace, so I had no faith in the grace that calmed others. I still feared for my life and carried the dread of Jesus coming far into my adulthood.

One day a film adaptation of the Gospel of Matthew began to change my picture of God. Every time I watched Bruce Marchiano’s portrayal of Jesus, I wept for the dawning realization that Jesus must surely love and forgive me. This drove me to share as much as I could of God’s love with others. It gave me great comfort to know that Jesus was homeless too. It felt like Jesus wrapped his arms around me and said, “I understand how that felt to not know where to lay your head or whether you would be safe.”

But the journey was not over yet, I had more to learn about God and little by little God brought seminars and people into my life to show me deeper truths about him and I began to trust God more with each paradigm shift. Sadly, it began to separate me from my parents. I eventually had to fire their version of Jesus to embrace the Jesus I was getting to know.

As the years go by, I’m learning more about the true Jesus and I am no longer afraid of God. The saddest thing for me is that out of my own family–my only peer group growing up, I have almost nothing in common when it comes to talking about God. Some reject God altogether, others follow and agree with whoever they are with at the time and seem not to do their own thinking. My parents, as far as representing God to us have epically failed because they refuse to acknowledge the wrongs of the past which would allow us all to move forward in truth and love.

Even in adulthood, we were discouraged from talking about being homeless, beaten with the belt and our loss of education. One of my siblings tried to speak of it in our twenties, but became the scapegoat where they had once been the golden child. Then, as I woke up in my mid-forties and realized the inability to speak of our secrets and pain had damaged me, I spoke up and became the scapegoat.

I am writing memoir today because this is history–my history. I ignored the first twenty years of my life for the second twenty and woke up in great despair for swallowing all those secrets. The only way to find relief and live a wholehearted life is to tell the stories that make up my life.

“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them.
During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything?
The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important.
It says: ‘I was here. I may be sold tomorrow.
But you know I was here.”
-Maya Angelou

Those who are perhaps not awake might say, “Forget the past and move onto the future.” But for me, the future is clearer when I can acknowledge my past. Maybe that’s because I am still the little girl beaten, the homeless big sister trying to comfort my mom and encouraged my siblings while we sleep on hard floors and eat m and ms for breakfast. I am still the teenage girl who weeps for friends and thrills to read novels which were taken away from her. I am still the young woman inside who determined never to let anyone control my life again. Anne Lamott is right when she says, “I am all the ages I have ever been.”

We can tell people what they want to hear, but when we are alone with the mirror, we have no choice but to tell ourselves the truth or die. I choose truth and life. It gives me great joy to know that Jesus is the Truth and he always supports those who tell the truth and he stands on the side of the truth.

Did you grow up with secrets?
Is it hard to tell the truth?
Will your family members openly discuss the past today?

Independence Day Again

7 Jul

Do you have an independence day? No, I’m not talking about a national holiday, but the day you were set free because you realized a relationship with someone you loved was not going to work any more? It seems we have many independence days along this journey from narcissism. Sometimes we have to get up and declare our independence just to get out of bed in the morning, but several years ago I claimed July seventh for my personal independence day. It started because seven is my favorite number.

My Grandma used to tell me I was lucky to be born on the seventh day of the month and the seventh day of the week. By lucky she meant blessed. She believed seven is God’s special number and in her Grandmotherly way she wanted me to know I was God’s special child. So I took joy in the number seven and adopted it for my own, but the good things God provides can sometimes be misused by his enemy.

Seven years ago my family went through what I call the great divorce. Two of my siblings divorced that summer. When I stood up for a child to have access to both parents in a nasty divorce, my parents tried to discredit the truth I spoke by writing a letter to a judge proclaiming me to be a liar and religious fanatic. They said I make stuff up just to hurt people. Of course those who really know me would realize this letter was a lie, but the fact my own parents lied about me and dated it on 7/7 was crushing. Even the date on their letter seemed to taunt me.

If it weren’t for God, my loving husband, my sweet friend Mary Lou who adopted me and a father and mother in law who gave me reassuring love, I’m not sure what I would have done. Since then, I’ve seen my parents twice in seven years. The first was when I asked them to join me at the Spaghetti Factory. It ended with my mom trying to shame me for telling the truth and my dad yelling at me in the parking lot and calling me mentally ill.

A year later on a bright blue sky New Year’s Day, I was sitting in church and felt it was a good time to let bygones be bygones so I asked my husband if we could leave in the middle of church service and I called my parents and we drove to their house. I felt they loved me and wanted us to have a relationship, but sadly the relationship could only be on their terms and part of their terms was for me to stop writing about my peripatetic childhood and most importantly the use of the belt and my being refused a high school education. They believed my only goal in writing about my pain was to cause them pain.

Today marks the seventh anniversary of my journey to emotional freedom from narcissistic abuse. Back then I had no name for my distress. I would never think of my parents as narcissistic because they’ve never been vain about how they look. I had no clue narcissism is often manifested by the fear of what other people think. And this fear propels narcissistic people to control and belittle those who don’t do what they want.

When I confronted my father about the letter to the judge, he laughed at me and challenged me to tell him what it said. Then he said he didn’t remember what he said because he just wrote it to discredit me. I’ll spare you the details of our three hour long conversation. Most of it was about my theology.

Wherever I’ve lived, I never really felt I needed new friends because my main friends were always my family, but after the great divorce everything changed. It felt like most of my family died in a bus wreck—except they were still alive—just not speaking to me. I think the death of cherished relationship before someone dies might even be worse than physical death. How I wish there was some magic cure for all of our misunderstandings about God, self-protection and narcissism.

As I was working on my memoir today, I noticed the date with great sorrow. It’s been seven years since they wrote the letter and over five since I’ve seen my parents. I’ve never been a grudge holder, but I’ve discovered without honesty and respect, it’s pretty hard to keep a relationship going.

I still love my parents–both of them. But the question is do they love me enough to be honest and treat me with respect? We can’t keep calling people who have very little to say to us and we can’t make people appreciate having us in their lives. Even God lets people go to their own choices. Fundamentally these lies have broken our relationship.

I’ve even had family members say you never know how long they will live, but then do any of us have a guarantee of tomorrow? I used to be the one who called everyone in my family to stay in touch, but after the great divorce, I realized relationships are a two-way street. I still wish I could be near my parents and do things for them, but I can no longer do it at the cost of my emotional, physical and spiritual health. Even Jesus said we have to shake dust off of our feet rather than stay and fight with people who can’t support us. If we are to reunite it will be up to their choices and Jesus.

Sophia Owl, cherliynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/22403369-sophia-owl?c=541259-soul-sanctuary

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Every year on July 7, I celebrate my independence day, because without that letter and the subsequent conversations, I might never have used the knife that stabbed in me in the back to cut the apron strings. Discovering the truth about narcissism a couple years ago, filled in another piece of my healing puzzle. Today I realize it’s not mean to tell my own story. As a matter of fact a good memoirist tells on herself as much as she does anyone else. This book I’m writing has been prayed over with many tears because I don’t want to hurt the people I love. At the same time, truth brings healing to all who embrace it.

So now it’s been seven years since that sad day on 7/7, seven years of mostly silence from my family, but I’m still celebrating my freedom from the control and expectations of others. I celebrate that I have a husband who has stood by my side and loves me for over twenty six years. I have now officially been with him longer than without him. I celebrate that I am loved by a loving father in heaven. I celebrate all the wonderful people who have loved me and befriended me in the last seven years.

And through my celebration I will continue to release and let go and of my own pain and expectations.  I will release art. I will release stories and books and I will release my gifts and love for God and people who are worthy of hearing my story.

So this is a little insight into my memoir writing and why I am doing less art and writing less blogs while I am focusing on my book.  I hope this encourages you if you are struggling to stand up to tell your story. Memoirs have been called modern fairy tales. We can never have too many stories because all of our stories matter.

Peace and freedom to all!

Why Spanking is Bad for YOU

1 Jul

This post was inspired by the way a neighbor treated his little girl this week. 

Hey Struggling Parent,

It doesn’t matter what they did or didn’t do, this is about you. For whatever reason, your blood pressure is up, your blood is boiling and you want the release of making your child feel pain so they will do exactly as you tell them in the future. But hold on a minute, lay your weapon down and consider the long term impact of what you are about to do. This violence you are about to commit will not only affect your child, but it will affect you too.

Maybe no one ever told you, but spanking is not good for your health. Hitting your child in anger–whether with your hand, a wooden spoon or a belt is going to affect you both for the rest of your life. Take a moment to breathe and count the cost.

When you punish in anger, you release an inflammatory cascade in your child and in your own body. Science has shown how anger brings out dangerous hormones that could make you sick. When you hurt your child in this rage, you are hurting yourself as well.

Your child is connected to you through a bond of trust, but what you are about to do will break that trust. Do you really believe you can afford to lose their faith in you just because you want to feel the release of your anger?

If your child is not adopted, your child carries your genes. When you beat your child, you are in a way beating a part of yourself. Do you feel you deserve this?

Have you ever been bullied by someone bigger than you? What are your feelings toward that bully today?  Do you want your child to have those same feelings toward you for the rest of their life? Your child will never forget the way you made them feel.

Have you thought about the impact your violence will have on this impressionistic soul? Do you realize if you pursue this course both of you will be change forever? Once you do this, the person God created your child to be will be forever altered and your relationship will never be what it could’ve been.

Let me repeat this just so you understand, the child you hit will be forever changed and you will never know who they might have become if you had chosen to discipline them in love instead of violence. The world and your family will suffer the loss of some of your child’s potential because you had a need to punish them instead of disciple them.

Yes, that’s the truth–discipline is to make a disciple out of someone. If you use violence to do this, you will make your child twice the child of hell that you are now. Do you want to disciple your child to bully and harm others? Statistics show children who are hit, will hit others and the cycle will continue to the third and fourth generations. Have you thought about how insane it is to hit your child for hitting others? Children grow up to do what you do–not what you say.

And the ultimate price for you might be the loss of relationship with your adult child. Because when your child reaches middle age and wakes up to all their pain and addictions and traces the root of their lifetime of fear and never feeling good enough to the way you made them feel, you will find yourself shut out.

Precious Child, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/21360855-you-are-precious-affirmations-from-abba?c=317908-affirmations-from-abba

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If in your anger and passion you think you can just take the easy way out and slap them around until they jump when you say jump, think again. You will simply be teaching your child to be afraid of you. And ultimately afraid of God. Do you want to ruin the precious faith of your own child? Can you really risk losing them in this life and for all eternity?

In the future, you might wonder why your child can’t get over it or why they won’t forget. You might feel they are blaming you for all their problems or playing the victim. Let’s get this straight. A child you choose to hit, who is smaller than you IS a victim. They might choose to overcome this evil done to them and become a survivor. They may even thrive, but once you’ve made them a victim of your violence, that damaged little child might live on inside of them for the rest of their life.

Perhaps you too were once a victim. Do you really want to continue this pattern? If your child is young, it’s not too late. Right now, you can take them by the hand and teach them a better way in love.

You have all the power because right now you are much bigger than them. You have all the power and you can stop it now before this violence damages both of you.

Just. Lay. Your. Weapon. Down.

And hug your child with unconditional love.

Thank you.

PS If it is already too late and your child has been damaged and grown up and has now shut you out, there is one way that might open the door to a relationship again. It involves humility, honesty and empathy. If you can offer these three things to your adult child and treat them with the respect you wish for yourself, you might be able to reconcile. It won’t be easy, but it could be healing for both of you.

On the other hand, if you only care about being right, then you are a selfish narc and don’t deserve a relationship with your child.

What the Bible Really Says About Honoring Our Parents

15 Jun

About a year ago one of my relatives took offense in my belief that women should be treated with equality in the church and after spouting all her venom on my FaceBook wall, I removed her as a friend. I sent her an email explaining why and suggested we talk in private through email rather than on my wall. She sent back a long diatribe and ended with the words “And besides, the Bible says we are to honor our parents, so when are you going to start doing that?”

By then I realized this was not a conversation, it was an indictment. I could only guess her last remark was in reference to my blog. The ripples of narcissism echo far and wide in my family tree. I’m not saying she’s a narcissist, but possibly a flying monkey because she’s bought into the lies of the narcs.

It’s sad because I’ve had to remove more than one person I love from my FB because we grew up with a lack of respect and messy boundaries. If there is one criticism we ACoNs keep hearing, it’s about honoring our parents. I think it’s time to take a look at what the Bible actually says about this.

For starters these comments are a reference to the fifth commandment which states:

Honor your father and your mother,
so that you may live long in the land
the Lord your God is giving you.
-Exodus 20:12

Does this mean God will shorten our lives if we don’t comply? This is the only commandment with a promise and it simply promises a long life for honoring our parents, but it doesn’t threaten any kind of vengeance from God.

One of the most dangerous things in Christian fundamentalism is proof texting where one verse is used by itself as a weapon to refute the common sense that comes with comparing other verses. This verse has the capacity for abuse when it’s used without empathy for hurting people. When we compare this with other verses about relationships, we find a much bigger picture.

Problem of Evil
On one forum someone wrote: “Because of the Decalogue, Christians have this flawed idea that you can’t have issues with a parent, but some people are dealing with parents that are more than flawed, they’ve done evil.”

Yet even in the face of such evil, there will be people who accuse us of judging our parents, they seem to forget Jesus taught us to test the fruit of people’s lives.

A good tree can’t produce bad fruit,
and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.
A tree is identified by its fruit.
Figs are never gathered from thornbushes,
and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.
A good person produces good things
from the treasury of a good heart,
and an evil person produces evil things
from the treasury of an evil heart.
What you say flows from what is in your heart.
-Luke 6:43-45

Some believe when our parents gave us life, we became obligated to obey them for as long as they live, but the verse in the Bible that says this, specifically states:

Children obey your parents in the Lord.
-Ephesians 6:1

When confronted with such black and white thinking, we can take courage from the wisdom of Jesus.

My mother and brothers are those
who hear God’s word and put it into practice.
-Jesus, Luke 8:21

Jesus seems to define family ties by those who obey God. Now to be honest we have all disobeyed God at some time.  I don’t think Jesus means for us to belittle our parents and hold their mistakes against them, but when it comes to how far we do what they ask, we have a commitment to honor our Heavenly Father first.

To put God’s word into practice is to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. To do justly is to be honest and fair. Most narcs don’t follow this rule 90 percent of the time. To love mercy is to manifest love and empathy for those who have wronged us and those who are hurting. And to walk humbly with God requires introspection and asking for forgiveness as we try to live out God’s lifestyle of other-centered love.

Another verse in the Bible mentions being unequally yoked together.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.
For what do righteousness
and wickedness have in common?
Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
-2 Corinthians 6:14

This illustration is a reference to the way oxen are hooked together to pull a plow. When they both wear the yoke, they need to work together while traveling in the same direction to succeed at the task.

Many pastors and counselors refer to this verse for those who are marrying unbelievers, but I would say it could be just as much a problem for two Christians who have opposing views on how to live the Christian life. In the same way, if we are trying to come together with family members who see things differently and belittle us for our political views or religious convictions, it will be very hard to get along. In many cases the narcissistic parent or sibling can be very abusive.

A prophet in the Bible put it this way:

Can two walk together,
except they are agreed?
-Amos 3:3

Before we realized what narcissism is and how it operates, most of us tried many times to reach out in love to our parents. Like a little kid who keeps going back to the broken bubble gum machine to get a gumball and loses his quarter, we kept repeating the patterns over and over. But what we didn’t realize back then is we can never fix a narcissist no matter how nice we are and how hard we try.

The narcissist is fundamentally broken in the love department. He or she is stuck in survival of the fittest mindset and is willing to kill you (or at least your reputation) to save self. This lack of agreement is obvious when we try to refute the narcissist’s lies. Anyone who has ever been gaslighted, will confirm it’s impossible for two to even talk together unless they are agreed.

The Problem of Further Abuse

If we continue putting ourselves in such destructive situations, it will impede our healing. It can be very traumatic to keep dealing with angry and disappointed parents. Such fighting is bad for the health of everyone involved.

I find it interesting when people quote the fifth commandment and I like to offer them a couple Bible verses which most of them have never heard of before:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger
by the way you treat them.
-Ephesians 6:4

Fathers, do not aggravate your children,
or they will become discouraged.
-Colossians 3:21

Do you think it would be fair to say that a father or mother who angers and exasperates their child to the point of discouragement is unequally yoked with their child? And as we know narcissism can be cruel enough to drive some to suicide and self-wounding because they feel no self-worth. These verses speak to the wounding that occurs from growing up with narcissistic parents.

Even worse, such parents have broken the third commandment by taking God’s name in vain and misrepresenting him to their children. In turn these children grow into adults who imagine God is like their abusive parents, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus Loves Children of all Ages

Many of us endured beltings and emotional abuse as children of narcissistic parents. Back then we were powerless and true victims because we had no power over our own lives. We were completely reliant on our parents for food and shelter, so we had no choice. Today we are adults and we are no longer victims because we can choose to separate from those who abuse us.

Jesus saw how we were treated as little children. He is fully aware of our wounding and scars. He shows great compassion and affection for little children and he has no less compassion for us today:

If anyone causes one of these little ones–
those who believe in me–to stumble,
it would be better for them to have a large millstone
hung around their neck and to be
drowned in the depths of the sea.
– Matthew 18:6

Why does Jesus make such a statement? If we believe Jesus lives out the non-violence he taught in the Sermon on the Mount, he is not threatening the abusers, but proclaiming the natural result of reaping what they’ve done.

When the narcissist has gone so far they have no remorse, Jesus is describing the futility of their existence because they have lost their capacity for love. I’ve heard people joke that when Jesus says “Suffer little children,” there are narcissists who make it their mission to make this happen.

The True Meaning of Honor

Yes, we can love those who do not love us, but love is manifested in many forms. Love is not indulgent and does not reward abuse. Love stands up for good things like right doing and honest living. And love most certainly stands up to bullies, but even more important love cannot be faked, but must be honest and honorable.

The word honor is married to honesty. They go hand in hand. There can be no honor without honesty. They are one and the same. So ultimately to honor our parents and especially our heavenly Parent, we must be honest.

Honor includes saying I will no longer allow you to threaten me or shame me or belittle my life choices because I sense no love in your attitude toward me. If you want to tell the truth and apologize for your lies and abuse, we have a starting point where we might agree and that would be a wonderful thing. But if you insist on your lies and abuse, the only way I can honor you is to let you go and honor my heavenly Parent.

Survivor Girl God Took Me In,CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/14231063-god-took-me-in?c=541752-inner-child

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How Do We Love?

14 Jun

How do we love?
Do we love with picket signs and judgment?
Or with silence and shunning for the people
who look, speak, think, live and believe differently than us?

How do we love?
Do we protect ourselves with weapons made of metal
or use hate-filled words of steel
to threaten those who see things differently?

How can we love?
When we wore colors for Paris and Umpqua,
yet shudder to wear a rainbow for a fallen child of God?

Did we love Umpqua
because we have all gone to class?
Did we love Paris
because it was the city of light?

Do we see Pulse as different
because we imagine we are right?
And believe angels left these at the door?
So we feel less need to mourn
figuring they got what they were looking for?

How can we love?
When most of our lives we have been building walls
between us and those we think unclean?
Where do we start on the bridge between? 

Where is our love?
Love that has failed over and over and over again?
When will we learn to admit we are sinners too?

How does He love?
The one whose blood was shed for all?
The one who mourns and sits with the hurting?
The one whose name we bear
while we try to put a distance
between ourselves and other sinners?
Are we not separating ourselves from him in the process?

Love Birds, CherilynClough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/20754218-love-never-fails

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Congratulations, It’s a Narc

3 Jun

Think of that moment in a movie or real life when a laboring mother is panting and pushing, while the father is offering her words of encouragement, then finally the moment comes when they hear a cry and the doctor announces those magical words, “Congratulations, it’s a boy!” Or “Congratulations, it’s a girl!” Everyone cries happy tears in this very emotional moment. Well let’s consider this moment from the baby’s point of view:

He’s being ushered into a harshly bright and scary world where he will soon be asked to live up to his mother’s expectations and bear his father’s judgment and criticism. He might even be beaten or starved or isolated from society–all because his parents’ needs will come before his. If only he were able to understand this at birth, the doctor might greet him by saying, “Congratulations, it’s a narc!”

And if the baby has siblings, the doctor could just as well say, “Congratulations, you’ve got flying monkeys!” What a family lottery to win! If only we knew what we were dealing with from birth. It might not hurt so much when they fail to love and respect us. Some people think babies should come with instructions, but I think narc parents should too. “Congratulations, it’s a narc! Go ahead and crush the eggshells, because when all is said and done, it won’t make any difference.”

Most children of narcissistic parents grow up wondering what’s wrong with them. Why do I feel so sad or angry? Why do I feel shame to be sick or have needs or share how I’m feeling? Why can’t I be like normal people? All of these questions and so much pain could be avoided if only we could recognize narcissism by scabs like we do chicken pox.

A man once told me to stop calling my parents names and encouraging other people to call their parents names. By names, he was referring to the noun narcissist. He simply didn’t have empathy for those who were raised differently than him. He was apathetic. I am not close to this person so I was able to see through him and walk away. Lack of empathy is another sign of narcissism, but I really don’t like calling people names.

Go Where You Are Celebrated, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/20478311-go-where-you-are-celebrated-survive-andthrive?c=540742-survive-to-thrive

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So why do we refer to our abusive parents as narcs? And how do we know this is not a lack of empathy? Because most ACoNs have spent their entire lives empathizing with the narcissist. As a matter of fact some studies have shown narcissistic people often target empathetic people. So if you were the most empathetic child in a family, chances are you were targeted by your narc parent to provide their narcissistic feed. For more information on this check out the Empathy Trap book.

We use the term narcissist loosely because we have to name it to claim it–otherwise we might never realize what we are dealing with. How is this helpful? Because for most of our lives we had no name for what was happening in our homes and lives. We were yelled at, beaten, shut out, belittled, scorned, made fun of and told we were the problem. As children, many of us going through such physical and emotional abuse blamed ourselves.

We thought we were responsible to make our parents happy, but the truth is children–young or old, are not responsible for their parent’s feelings. If you are not trying to hurt people, you can’t be held responsible for their moods and tempers and dark thoughts. Each person is responsible for themselves, but children of narcissists don’t realize this while growing up because narcissistic families don’t have proper boundaries.

Many ACoNs spent years believing we were the problem because we were told to “get over it,” “forget the past” and “stop causing trouble.” How little did we know these phrases might be the very symptoms of narcissism.

It was only by learning the traits of narcissistic personality disorder and hearing the stories of other victims, that many of us realized we are not responsible for the insanity in our families. Having a name and recognizing the symptoms of narcissism brings peace.

If you’re in doubt, and question if by some chance your parent is not actually a narc, then just watch and wait. See if they contact you. Listen for loving words that say, “I am sorry for your pain, I am sorry I hurt you.” My friend Mary Lou showed me what unconditional love from a loving parent looks like. I highly recommend you get to know people who are great parents of all ages and watch them and learn from them. Then, learn to give the little child inside of you this same unconditional love.

So how do we move on from being victims to survivors? The moment we say, “Thus far and no more.” We have stepped through the threshold into another possibility. It’s not enough to say, “I survived beatings and lies and mind warps and gaslighting.” It’s not enough to say, “My parents didn’t love me.” It’s not even enough to say, “My parents are still mad at me for making my own choices.”

Until you understand narcissistic personality disorder and realize it’s not you, it’s the narc, you can’t walk through this threshold of healing. If you’re still blaming yourself or hanging out with people who blame you, then you remain a victim, but if you can name it and move on, you will become a survivor. And if you can name and claim what you want without allowing the narc’s interference, if you have learned to go where you are celebrated, if you can suck the marrow out of life, then you have begun to thrive!

Every woman that finally figured out her worth,
has picked up her suitcases of pride
and boarded a flight to freedom,
which landed in the valley of change.
-Shannon L. Alder 

 

Daring Greatly–The Courage of the Roosevelts

29 May

Jeri grew up with a narcissist mother who put her down and told her she was stupid and ugly. She has now come to a place where her marriage has failed, her family seems to do nothing but criticize her and her health is of some concern. The other day, she explained how the prospect of surviving a lonely existence on her own terrifies her to the point she wonders if the world even needs her. Jeri represents thousands of ACONs who lack confidence from narcissistic parents and are still reeling from the pain of betrayal, but it might surprise her to know she is not alone– she stands beside some great people who have overcome similar abuses and some of them bear the name Roosevelt.

I’ve recently watched the PBS documentary by Ken Burns about the Roosevelts which is now on Netflix. It is titled “The Roosevelts, an Intimate History.” I have often heard people refer to the “good Roosevelt” and the “bad Roosevelt” meaning whichever political party they ascribed to, but I have been greatly inspired by both President Theodore Roosevelt and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as well as Teddy’s niece and Franklin’s wife, Eleanor Roosevelt (who ironically never had to change her name.)

These presidents were fifth cousins and both were supportive of each other. Their family tree though intermingled, was not a very compatible one. Eleanor was the strong link between the two of these men because she was Teddy’s niece and FDR’s wife and both empowered her to live out her own life of service to others.

Courage, cherilynclough.com, www.etsy.com/shop/LittleRedSurvivorArt

Prints and Pillows available here

Teddy Roosevelt was older and born sickly with such bad asthma that no one expected him to grow up. His younger brother was stronger and more popular than he was and because Teddy was bullied and picked on because of his size, he was afraid to go places without his brother when he was a child. He overcame his illnesses and grew up to become a very strong figure both physically and mentally.

After falling in love with a beautiful woman and marrying her, he lost his wife two days after childbirth as well as his mother to Typhoid fever in the same night. He was left with a baby girl named after his wife, but he never spoke of the loss of his wife again it was such a tragic event for him.

Despite his personal pain, Teddy Roosevelt worked hard against unfair working conditions among the factories and mines to limit the power of big industry over the average worker and in American politics. He was well loved and very popular and did much good for our country. His famous speech “The Man in the Arena,” aptly describes his own journey and has inspired millions to get up and try again.

Teddy’s brother, who had been so physically strong, was the father of Eleanor Roosevelt. He became an alcoholic and ended up in an asylum before he died. After his death, Teddy took Eleanor under his wing as his favorite niece.

Eleanor, who never quite got over losing her father, did not find love in her mother who hated her overbite and called her “granny” because she was so ugly. Eleanor never felt loved by anyone until she met her distant cousin Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but even before he married her, his mother was over-protective of her son and tried to dissuade him from marrying her. She was never a friend to Eleanor. She considered her grandchildren as if she were the mother and Eleanor was a house-guest. In every pursuit, she seemed to work against Eleanor. After Eleanor bore him five children, she discovered her husband had been cheating on her for years with his secretary. She was devastated, but he agreed to never see her again and they moved on.

Without any power in her family and feeling powerless since her mother in law seemed to be raising her children, Eleanor began to help with those who were struggling during the depression and found her own life work in public service. Later, when her husband contracted polio, she and FDR must have struggled with depression, but they both tried to be positive for the sake of their children.

For two years FDR worked on walking, but he never really walked again. He moved his legs in a very painful manner with braces on his legs to hold him up. In all of his speeches where he looked like he was standing, he was more like propped up and leaning on something. This all happened before he even ran for president. Most people would have given up, but Roosevelt did all he could to be as strong as possible by swimming and strengthening his upper body.

He must’ve done something right because he was our longest serving president and was elected four times, bringing our country through the great depression and WWII. Some criticized his New Deal and later others would criticize the Manhattan Project which was started under his watch, but helped end the war with Japan. Whether we agree with his politics or not, FDR was trying to serve the people in the best way he knew how. He believed Hitler was evil long before he could get us into the war and he did his best to end Hitler’s reign.

Despite all the good Roosevelt did, he was scandalized by relatives and Teddy Roosevelt’s oldest daughter Alice, publicly said she would vote for Hitler over her cousin FDR. FDR said he didn’t care if he ever heard from that evil woman again. This documentary could well be titled, “Roosevelts, a Triumph Over Narcissistic Relatives.”

While FDR worked on his New Deal policies, Eleanor became more and more popular by writing a column every week. The nation respected her opinion and when her husband was criticized, she spoke out to support him. This couple could very easily have given up. FDR had a lifetime struggle with his illness and Eleanor was often dealt blows about her own self-worth, but they were united in service for a love of the American people.

On the day FDR died, he was working on a speech to encourage our country’s involvement in the formation of the United Nations. His last words, written in his own handwriting read:

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow
will be our doubts of today.
Let us move forward with strong and active faith.
-Franklin D. Roosevelt

When Eleanor went to bring FDR’s body home after he died, she was devastated to be told he was still entertaining his old flame and one time secretary. She could have given up after he died. She could have floated on a river of tears for her losses of not having a loving and supportive family from her mother and father to her husband and mother in law, it seemed most people betrayed her. The one exception was her uncle Teddy Roosevelt. He was one person who had a great influence on her character and life because of the love he instilled in her for the common person.

After FDR’s death, a reporter approached Eleanor but she told him to go away because it was over. She spoke too soon. She continued to serve people of all backgrounds and nations–even winning over her critics by helping to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the United Nations.

Despite all the narcissistic people who let her down, despite her own fears and doubts about her worth, Eleanor declared she found a way to love by loving other people. Her advice is helpful for those of us who have judgmental and unloving parents and who wonder if we will ever be able to do something of value to contribute in this world. If you are afraid, take hope in her words:

Courage is more exhilarating than fear,
and in the long run, it is easier.
We do not have to become heroes overnight–
just a step at a time, meeting each thing as it comes,
seeing it’s not as dreadful as it seems.
Discovering we have the strength to stare it down.
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Watching this documentary has greatly encouraged me to try harder to bless others despite my own struggles. I highly recommend it for anyone struggling with narcissistic relatives, self-doubts and fear of failure. The truth is each of these courageous people either dealt with narc parents or some sort of health issues and adversity, they also made many mistakes themselves, but they never gave up. As a matter of fact, it seems their trials only made them stronger.

The world breaks everyone
and afterward
many are strong in the broken places.
-Ernest Hemingway

The Double Bind on the ACoN Soul

27 May

Alisa was the scapegoat while her sister was the golden child. She grew up feeling like she didn’t belong and often wondered if she was adopted. It was hard to grow up feeling like she was on the outside of her family’s inner circle.

A few years ago her father asked her to come to work for him. Alisa was shocked he considered her. She and her father had never been close, but Alisa saw this as a chance to do such a good job her father might finally be proud of her. The new job went well for a couple weeks–until her father asked her to lie and cheat on some financial forms. Alisa didn’t know what to do.

For the first time in her life, her father had praised Alisa for her hard work and she felt their relationship was better than ever. On the other hand, Alisa felt rotten to go along with the sham. Alisa was caught in a double bind–her desire to maintain her integrity was at odds with her desire to win her father’s love. Alisa is not alone. Double binds are a very common problem for the ACoN soul.

Speak the Truth, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/13762555-speak-the-truth-healing-flowers?c=540575-healing-flowers

Prints and Accessories Available Here

You’ve probably been in a bind yourself. Have you felt the pull to gossip or triangulate with others so you can be part of the inner crowd and keep the narcissist from talking about you? Have you wanted your parents love so much you were willing to say things you didn’t mean or do things you resented to win their love? Have you tried to speak your truth only to discover it will drastically change your family dynamics? Have you struggled with going along with all the family drama to avoid getting shunned? If so, you’ve been in a double bind and been asked to play a game you can never win.

So how do we live in a world full of double binds and maintain our integrity? How do we share our stories authentically and remain in relationship with the people we love?

  1. Keep Options Open
    People might act like the family reunion is the most important even of the summer, but if the only reason you are willing to go is because you are afraid the narc and flying monkeys will be talking about you, is it worth it? Do you really want to spend a weekend babysitting people from backstabbing and lying about you? What kind of life is this?The double bind might not be your only option. Perhaps there are people you would like to see, but just not in these circumstances. Maybe you can invite them to meet up with you on a different occasion without the narc and flying monkeys around.
  2. Realize You Are Not the Only One With Choices
    The fallacy of the double bind happens when you imagine you are the only one responsible for the results. You might feel you are damed if you do and damed if you don’t, but perhaps it is not you who is damed. Maybe the narc is damed if you do and damed if you don’t.If Alisa could see the bigger picture, she might realize her father should be the one in the double bind. On one hand he has a devoted daughter doing a great job, who is unwilling to compromise her values even for her father’s love. He might feel upset because she won’t go along with him, but he also loses if she submits to his plans. If this happens, he has not only chosen to do a criminal act, but he’s raised a daughter following in his slimy footsteps. If he has any conscience left at all, he could be glad for her stand to be honest and follow after her.
  3. To Thine Own Self be True
    Shakespeare wasn’t kidding when he wrote this advice. It’s probably the most important advice ever written. If we fail to be true to ourselves, we will have nothing left to serve others or God. No matter how much we want to go along with the narc, we can’t. Call it karma or the natural law of sowing and reaping, but life rewards our actions. The narc won’t care because most narcs have little to no conscience. It could be your health at stake or your sleep lost because you did something you knew was against everything you stood for.

It seems like one of the most common double binds for ACoNs is speaking their truth and losing the love of their parents. For those of us who grew up in enmeshed families or with emotional incest, it feels like a death. And it is a death of sorts. The double bind comes between choosing your own life or the life of your parents. I had a sibling once tell me that we could never live until our parents were dead. I cried because I didn’t want them to die, but I wanted to live.

Are you willing to kill your own character and personality to please your parents? Or are you willing to let them be unhappy with your choices so you can live? The answer should be logical and obvious. Don’t let mixed emotions steal your power. If you have conflicted feelings, follow the logic of truth and love. If you give up who you are to please others, you will lose yourself and you will never be happy and alive.

If you want to be true to yourself, then F the double bind and speak the truth–even when your voice shakes.

 

 

 

Maybe He Doesn’t Hit You, But It’s Still Abuse

13 May

The new domestic violence hashtag trending on twitter this week #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou
has been informing the world that emotional abuse is just as painful as physical abuse. No one knows this more than survivors of narcissistic abuse. As a matter of fact, I’ve run into lots of ignorant people who don’t recognize narcissistic abuse because they haven’t been educated about it. So in an effort to increase awareness here are six steps in the cycle of narcissistic abuse:

Step One–Control
The narcissist has a need to control the victim. Juliana’s boyfriend liked to control how much she ate and he often expected her to eat off of his plate at restaurants without ordering her own food. Control can be about anything in the relationship. It could be about money or sex or deciding who you can talk to on the phone. This need for control is the bedrock of narcissism.

Step Two–Manipulation
When Juliana decided to order her own plate and took back control, the narc sought other ways to gain control by first manipulating her with gifts and when that didn’t work, he tried threats. The issue was never about food, if she wanted to get her own plate, he had five loads of laundry for her to do before bedtime. Or maybe no sex that night. If there was something that Juliana wanted, the narc found a way to spoil it. Beware anyone who does not take your word at face value, but tries to sweet talk and/or push you into doing something you don’t want to do.

Step Three–Revenge
Once Juliana had enough of the manipulation and control, she decided to leave the narc, but she discovered narcs don’t get mad, they get even. Revenge came in many ways from talking about her to all her friends and to stealing some art she had in storage. Juliana learned the hard way the narc sees everything she owned including her body and money as though it belonged to the narc.

Wolf Story, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/18139482-wolf-story?c=317903-little-red-wisdom

Prints Available Here

Step Four–Victimhood
After Juliana left the narc, he played the victim and acted like Juliana was the abusive person in the relationship.  Appearances are very important to most narcs. They want everyone to know what a nice person they were and how terrible the other person was for breaking up with them. Juliana’s ex infiltrated all her social circles and moped around soliciting pity from all her so-called friends who were now his friends. This allowed the narc to groom some flying monkeys.

Step Five–Flying Monkeys
Juliana’s true friends did not believe the narc, but among her acquaintances there were lots of potential flying monkeys. Flying Monkeys are people who listen to the narc and carry shame and guilt messages back to the victim from the narc. Flying monkeys questioned Juliana’s judgment for leaving the narc because they thought he seems like such a nice guy. Others questioned her manner of leaving the narc–could she have possibly stayed longer and paid another month’s rent so he was not left in a lurch?

Obviously these flying monkeys had no clue what Juliana was dealing with. Some of the more pride-filled flying monkeys judged Juliana for being with the narc in the first place. One of the most difficult parts of narcissistic abuse is dealing with flying monkeys, but if you, like Juliana, can remain calm and ignore the flying monkeys they will eventually burn out and go away.

Step Six—Shunning
When Juliana and her true friends no longer paid any attention to the flying monkeys or the narc, she finally got some peace because the narc in a last ditch attempt to manipulate her, shut her out completely and refused to speak to her.

Juliana was now dead to the narc. Ah peace—except this entire cycle will repeat itself all over again if Juliana in any way responds to the narc. Being involved with a narc is like being stuck on the spin cycle with all of the narc’s mood swings and drama.

If you are going through any stage of this cycle, take your cues from Juliana and leave, because this may be your chance for freedom. You are not alone. There are helpers and true people everywhere so look for them.

And I not only have the right to stand up for myself,
but I have the responsibility.
I can’t ask somebody else to stand up for me
if I won’t stand up for myself.
And once you stand up for yourself,
you’d be surprised that people say,
“Can I be of help?”
-Maya Angelou

Five Myths About Motherhood

5 May

If you had a loving mom, it’s a beautiful thing to acknowledge her for whatever she’s done for you, but it’s also important to understand not everyone has such a mother. Here are five myths about motherhood that might make Mother’s Day easier to get through if you are struggling with a broken relationship with your mom.

Myth #1 Giving Birth Makes a Mother

Giving birth doesn’t actually make a mother. It might, but it’s not a guarantee. What makes a mother is a loving relationship manifested through nurturing and empathy.

God’s intentions for mothers (and fathers) was for them to represent him by procreating in their own image and serving their offspring with other-centered love, teaching them to do the same for the next generation.

Narcissistic mothers give birth and serve self. In this case, birth creates a sort of queen mum to be waited on hand and foot—a so called mother who demands her children meet her every need. Sometimes this includes dictating who her children should marry or even if they can marry. If this is the fruit of her so-called motherhood, then giving birth didn’t create a mother, it just provided more narcissistic feed for a narcissist.

That said, we can still honor egg donors. We can thank them for life–without allowing them to control our lives.

Myth #2 Adopting Makes a Mother

Just as with giving birth, adoption is another opportunity to be a mother–but only if a woman chooses to become a mother through giving other-centered love. There are many adoptive mothers who tenderly love a child as much as any who gave birth. But then there are narcissistic mothers who merely wanted to acquire more children as if they were possessions and when the newness wears off they get bored of motherhood. Motherhood is more than the acquisition of a child, it is a relationship for life.

Narcissistic mothers often fail to nurture because they lack empathy. Empathy is the part of love that allows us to see life through the eyes of another. It’s sad how many mothers both through adoption and birth choose to shun their children because they have no empathy for them and resent their adult children who didn’t turn out the way they wanted them too.

Survivor Girl God Took Me In, CherilynClough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/14231063-god-took-me-in?c=541752-inner-child

Print Available Here

If you had such a mother, you probably already know you can’t live out her expectations for you. It’s important to determine where your mother ends and you begin. Such boundaries will separate your mother from yourself and allow you to become yourself.

Myth #3 God Decides Who Gets to Have Children

While I was growing up, some people used to say “There’s a reason God doesn’t give some people children.” Hmmn… If we believe God has withdrawn his blessing from every infertile couple, then we would have to follow this idea through to its logical conclusion and assume God is purposely giving children to every mother who gives birth. Why would God bless crack addicts and abusers with children, while he withholds babies from honest, loving parents?

I have a friend who is a counselor for an adoption agency. She once said, “I think God stepped back from actively deciding who gets to have children a long time ago and left the choices to us. I think the determining factors as to who can give birth is more likely the result of genetics and health from living in a damaged world.”

That said, every child who comes into this world is still a gift from God. God designed the human family to receive love and a give love and a helpless baby offers us one of the most rewarding opportunities to experience love.

Myth #4 You Can’t Understand Parenting Unless You’re a Parent

To be a mother is to love and nurture. Some of us were mothers at an early age. I changed diapers and bottles and dressed my baby siblings since I was four or five. I never actually thought I was their mother and I had no plans to usurp my mother’s place. I knew we all had the same mother, but I still mothered them.

Chances are if you care about children at all, you have mothered in some sense even if you are not called mother. Mothering is the art of giving in a nurturing way. Mothering is planning a birthday party, soothing a wounded knee and sharing encouragement when a friend is discouraged.

When we think of mothering as a verb, it’s obvious anyone can use empathy and love to nurture others. Mothering can describe the behavior of older siblings, grandmothers, aunts, teachers and really anyone who takes the time to invest in the life of a child. Mother Teresa is a grand example of a true mother heart.

Myth #5 God is Our Father, But Not Our Mother

Some people freak out over references to Mother God, but where do they think mothers came from in the first place? The Godhead said, “Let us create humankind in our image.” Male and female were created in God’s image.

God therefore is as much mother as as a father. Those who are invested in patriarchy, might cling to whatever they’ve been told and struggle to see it, but those with open minds, willing to seek truth in all things, can’t deny God is both masculine and feminine. There are verses throughout the Bible describing the feminine face of God.

The kind of mother we find in God, is the opposite of a narcissistic mother.

When the narc mom demands we jump through arbitrary hoops to please her, our Mother God sets us free to be ourselves.

When the narc mom demands control of the relationship, our Mother God leaves us free to choose if we want a relationship.

When a narc mom makes fun of us and demeans us, our Mother God has designed us to be unique and beautiful and she celebrates who we are.

This mother God is not some false concept, nor is she in disagreement with our Father God–they are one and the same God.

To recap, anybody can give birth or adopt a child, but it takes an empathetic, loving person to be a mother. Anyone can answer to mother, but those who empower a child to grow into her true self instead of controlling who she might become, is mothering. To mother is to be like God. God is the ultimate mother of us all. Let’s honor both our heavenly mother and our earthly mothers and let’s release the narcs to take care of themselves.

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