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Be a One Woman Riot

25 Feb

When I was a kid, if my siblings and I argued or made too much noise, we were put on silence. Silence meant we were not allowed to speak or make any noise. If we found a way to communicate through spelling letters through sign language or motioning, we might even be put on frozen statue. Frozen statue meant you were not to move at all. No touching or laughing or smiling because a smile meant you might be up to something. If you did not obey the rules of silence and frozen statues, then you could be beaten with the Persuader. Such was the “fascist regime” of my childhood. And while I loved my parents, I hoped to leave such control behind by the time I reached adulthood.

Of course I didn’t realize when people can no longer control you with the belt, they will guilt and shame and shun to push you into doing what they want. Even as a young adult, I rarely spoke to my siblings about what happened in our childhood because to do so was considered breaking the ultimate rule of family togetherness. Family togetherness means you never speak of the past—not even to each other–all must be forgiven and forgotten.

Family togetherness also means you never, ever speak about the family to outsiders. And in case you are wondering, I’m doing that right now. I’ve been doing it for seven years and I have had less phone calls from my parents than you can count on one hand. Every year, I get an email from my mom acknowledging that I was born on my birthday, but my attempts to have a real relationship with them is very limited—not because I don’t want to have one, but because they feel I have broken the rules of family togetherness and they basically have no interest in my life.

Simply speaking about things that happened over thirty years ago makes me a monster to them, but I am writing a memoir—not out of anger toward them (actually I hope to portray them with love and compassion) but because my childhood was unique and strange and it was very hard for me to grow up when I got out into the real world.

Speak the Truth Healing Fowers, Cherilynclough.com, https://www.etsy.com/listing/509653965/speak-the-truth-giclee-print-8x10-or?ref=shop_home_active_1

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So why can’t I keep quiet? Because if I don’t speak up, no one will ever have known that I was alive or what happened in my life. No one will know what it is like to have Mt. St. Helens blow up your life and be isolated from other teenagers and denied an education while you wait for Jesus to come. I have to speak it because it was not just their lives that were affected by their choices, it was my life. These are my stories, not so much theirs, but they do play a major part.

I’ve mentioned how the current US administration brings on my childhood PTSD. It’s the authoritarian rule. In the past no matter which party was in office, it was not a huge deal because presidents from both sides respected the U. S. constitution and at least made an effort to treat all people as equal. But my PTSD was most recently triggered this last week by the treatment of the press by the White House.

I took some journalism classes in college and the first thing we were taught is the press is the watchdog on the White House steps and to imagine it being muzzled reminds me of many fascist regimes throughout history and the losses of freedom including religion. The worst part about this is that so many, even within my religious community, seem unable to see this.

My sweet grandma always kept a diary. I call her sweet because whenever I walked into the room, she made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. And she wasn’t playing favorites, I’ve seen her greet my male cousins and brother and my sisters in the same way. I think it could be fair to say she was kind to even her son in laws who really never seemed to respect her very much. There was a lot of eye rolling because she didn’t cook much and she did CPR on cats at least twice to save their lives. It’s true she talked to cats and raccoons and skunks and birds. She was like a Grandma Doolittle and many people were nervous about the skunks she fed on her back porch. It could be said about Grandma that she walked with skunks and angels.

Grandma talked to Jesus and about Jesus every day. And for decades, she kept a diary. The contents were often mundane about the weather or her pets, but sometimes they told stories of her faith in God and how he came through for her. She lived through her parents’ divorce which mortified her and separated her from her siblings and she endured the great depression and worked as Rosie the Riveter during WWII and endured many sad events such as losing her first born child at birth. Grandma lived a life of faith despite her pain.

When Grandma hurt her hip and ended up in elder care, my parents took all those decades of diaries and burned them in a big bonfire. They took away her voice before she was even dead. My siblings and I were appalled when they told us but no one confronted them because we knew it would make things harder in our family to get along.

Silence. Silence from one party can mean sadness, anger, disconnection, or even death. But forced silence is another thing altogether. Forced silence is a form of control to murder another’s voice. Or even another’s right to determine the truth by hearing more than one side of the story.

During the Women’s March I saw a video of a group of women singing a song by MILCK. My husband played it for me because he thought I would like it and when I heard it, my eyes immediately filled with tears. This is why I must write on. I can’t stop my blog or my memoir as hard as it is when I have no family to support me in telling my story, I will press on because Jesus cares.

Jesus never asks us to keep quiet about our pain or to ignore injustice. Jesus comes to each of us with love and forgiveness, but he always, always leans in to listen to our pain. I have a friend who had an abortion decades ago and she is still feeling ashamed about it. I asked her if her little boy ran over his pet turtle on his bike and was feeling horrible about it, would she care about the turtle who was not in any more pain now, or for her child? She said her child of course.

Jesus is like that. He knows we have all messed up big time at some point in our lives, but he cares more about our hearts than anything we have done wrong. This is true for parents as well as children.  But the one thing Jesus doesn’t ask us to do is be silent when we have been hurt. We are free under God’s government to share our stories and to tell our stories because this is how we overcome (Rev. 12:11).

So I don’t know about you, but I am nervous about this changing of the guard from a land of freedom of speech and diversity to a land where we are threatened to be quiet if we have a different opinion or color of skin from the powers that be, this is not how God runs his government. Jesus runs his government on freedom for all and he says we will know the truth and the truth will set us free.

If you have been shamed and abused, don’t worry if someone scapegoats you and calls you a monster. Don’t let them shut you up. You are not alone. You are one of many. Tell your story. Embrace the messy truth, speak the honest truth and cherish the value of your own voice. I’m doing it for myself, but I am also doing it for Grandma and all the women before us who were forced into silence. Let’s not be quiet. We can each become a one woman riot! Viva la resistance!

Put on your face,
Know your place,
Shut up and smile,
Don’t spread your legs,
I could do that

But no one knows me, no one ever will,
If I don’t say something, if I just lie still.
Would I be that monster, scare them all away
If I let them hear what I have to say?

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone
Anymore

Cuz no one knows me no one ever will,
If I don’t say something, take that dry blue pill
They may see that monster, they may run away
But I have to do this, do it anyway

I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
I can’t keep quiet, no oh oh oh oh oh oh
A one woman riot, oh oh oh oh oh oh oh
Oh I can’t keep quiet

Let it out let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands

Let it out, let it out
Let it out now
Must be someone who’ll understand

Let it out, let it out
Let it out now
There’ll be someone who understands

Let it out, let it out
Let it out now

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone,
No, not any more.

-Written by Connie Lim and Adrianne Gonzalez

Don’t Let the Narcissist Define You

24 Feb

One of the most damaging things that happens to ACoNs is when the narcissistic parent tries to define them. The narc will try to define you to yourself, friends and other family members. This is part of the gaslighting treatment and we must diligently refuse to allow such lies to influence us. Let fools and flying monkeys listen to those lies, but never allow the narc to define you.

I once wrote a poem about how other people in my family told me how to spend my money and what music to listen to and how to dress and what foods to eat. I wrote how it bothered me to be controlled. This was not a saga of teenage rebellion against parental authority––I actually wrote this poem when I was thirty-four years old. It was a vague and shaky beginning to my awakening, but it would take me another ten years to fully wake up.

What was so weird about this poem is that I shared it with one of my sisters who told me it was a very selfish poem. She said it was all about me—

Me wanting to listen to whatever music I liked,

Me choosing to spend my own money,

Me eating whatever I liked,

Me dressing or wearing my hair however I liked,

And me worshipping God the way I felt led.

What’s really lame is I actually believed her. I felt ashamed for being so selfish that I tore up the poem and threw it away. I don’t blame my sister, she was only repeating the narcissistic things told to us growing up. This is the way we were raised–-to give up all of ourselves to please our family members. Well, I don’t buy into that game anymore. It was all part of the game I could never win.

When my sister called me selfish for wanting to live my own life, she was only being a flying monkey and repeating what our parents  had called her on multiple occasions. We were taught what we wanted was selfish, but complimented and told we were “thoughtful” if we did what they wanted.

Part of the problem is whenever I did things the narc didn’t approve of, they tried to define me as selfish or rebellious. Maybe this has happened to you. Have you found yourself feeling ashamed for being human and having human needs like desiring respect, fun and love? Don’t let the narcissist lie to you.

Any intelligent and mature person knows we all have choices and God himself gave us these choices. He doesn’t stop people from making even harmful decisions. Any form of control over another’s life choices by one adult toward another adult reveals a lack of God’s Spirit.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.

The heart of the problem in every dysfunctional family is someone trying to define someone else and trying to box them into their expectations. And it doesn’t go away when we grow up.

When we care about social causes, they call us liberals.
When we tell the truth and it exposes their lies, they accuse us of lying.
When we refuse to let them walk all over our boundaries, they peg us as controlling.
When we stop allowing them to use us, they call us stingy and selfish.
When we find a grace-filled picture of God, they call us heretics.

The bottom line is even if we did everything they wanted and sold our souls to please them, they wouldn’t appreciate it and they would still be looking for some way to judge and criticize. That’s because narcissistic people merely want to use people until they drain them dry.

Many of us have been pushed into a corner by a narcissist who wants to control us. When we spoke the truth, they lied and tried to make us look bad so no one will listen our stories or want to hang out with us. They want to scapegoat us so we can feel banished from the camp and left alone to die. If this has happened to you, there is still hope.

Remember it’s the family scapegoat who gets away. Others continue this group fantasy because they want to feel better about themselves and they can only do this by thinking of someone they deem worse than them. Of course this slows down their own journey of healing and makes them unsafe to be around, but we can’t control what they do, they will have to wake up on their own someday.

Giraffe Girl, cherilynclough.com, https://www.etsy.com/listing/219220213/teal-giraffe-giclee-print-whimsical-girl?ref=shop_home_active_1

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We are now in a time that people are calling “post-truth.” This is certainly a sad development when we consider that Jesus said it’s the truth which will set us free. Jesus had no room for alternative facts. He called out the lies and said those who lie are from their father the devil. It is now time for many of us to stand even taller in our truth.

In this post-truth age, we might need to call out truth like Jesus did when he exposed the Pharisees. It’s true there could be danger in this. Remember Jesus was accused of being a law breaker for healing people on the Sabbath. True other-centered love often trumps the laws of the land. Jesus was accused of touching the unclean and eating with sinners and outcasts. Because of this, some called him a false prophet—others even suggested he was filled with the devil.

Jesus said when his disciples danced they were judged for being happy and when they didn’t, they were told they were too sad. Jesus knows what it’s like to play a game you can never win, but he refused to let others define him. He stood for truth and he is the ultimate Truth about God. So no matter what label people, pastors, politicians and activists wear, if they don’t look and act like Jesus, there is no truth in them.

My message to you is don’t let the narc define you. You are not the sum of whatever the selfish narc wants to make you look like. I love this quote that Mother Teresa put on her wall,

“In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.”

Not only is this the truth, but we can’t allow other people to make our choices and we cannot allow other people–especially narcissistic people, to define us.

You are not selfish to make your own choices. God gave you those choices.

You are not a grudge holder for asking the narc to make things right if they want to have a relationship.

You are not being petty to ask them to be honest with you and about you.

You are definitely not a liar for telling the truth to refute the narcissist’s lies.

You are not unloving to ask for what you need.

Let the narcissist deal with their own bad choices, you are not responsible for their choices.

And you are not selfish to go no contact when people treat you with disrespect and animosity.

If you are a Christian, allow Jesus to define who you are–but please don’t let the narc define you.

How to Thrive After Narcissistic Abuse

7 Sep

It’s been three years since a friend invited me to join a private group on Facebook. I didn’t believe the group was for me so I ignored the first request. After a second offer, I joined to be polite. Within an hour I found the answer to a puzzle that had been plaguing me for most of my life. I discovered the traits of narcissistic personality disorder and on the eve of my fiftieth birthday, God gave me the great gift of understanding and peace.

I’d been writing a blog about God and my own questions and doubts, but this understanding of NPD healed my struggles on a new level because it helped me realize it wasn’t God who had abandoned me, it was my parents.

If you are new to understanding Narcissism, here are three tips that have saved my life:

  1. Find Community and Support for Your Dreams

No one can face life alone. We were created for community, but many of our narc parents didn’t stay in community. We were forced into isolation because we grew up moving a lot or had to avoid people to keep the family secrets behind closed doors.

Finding a good therapist and group of healthy friends is your most important job. No one can survive alone and by making you the scapegoat, the narcissist wants you to feel you have no one to turn to, but the good news is the world really is full of loving people.

  1. Don’t Let Others Define You

The Narc can try to put you in a box or send you out from the camp as the scapegoat, but this says more about the narc and flying monkeys than it does about you.

There is a line the Narc likes to use: “If everyone else has a problem with you, then you must be the problem.” This is a narc fantasy and only works for the narc in their limited world. Think about it. How many friends does the narc have? I’m not talking about Facebook connections which are mostly acquaintances. I’m talking about real friends who live in community with them for years. Most narcs don’t have many friends because they are judgmental and litigious. They either can’t stand people who don’t meet their needs or they sue them.

The Narc might think of you as the scapegoat, but what does this say about them? They are cowards who use group think to control others? They are so ashamed of their own choices they would rather lie about you than let you speak the truth about them?

What does it say about you that you have been used as their scapegoat? You must’ve been courageous enough to speak the truth or taken a stand that defied their plans. This means you stood out in the crowd by thinking for yourself.

  1. Re-Parent Your Child Inside

Every person will need to decide for themselves what they missed as a child and what they need today. I believe it’s possible to be re-parented by God. God showed me what Narcissism is on the eve of my fiftieth birthday. It was a painful blessing, but this road led to peace because now I have a name for this hidden abuse.

Keep your eyes open and read the gospels because as time goes by, you will find little signs from Abba that you are his beloved! We are all his beloved, but only a few seem to grasp this concept.

As I began my recovery from narcissistic abuse, I began to paint and write about what I discovered. This has helped a lot of people and I really can’t take credit for it because I’m just passing on what has been given to me. I have dedicated this year to writing my memoir and writing my stories has brought a lot of healing and peace too.

Memoir Elephant, cherilynclough.com, http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/23081518-memoir-elephant?asc=u&c=541752-inner-child

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I’ve had flying monkeys question me about my blog and upcoming book as though I am writing to hurt my parents. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love my parents no matter what they’ve done or not done for me. I simply wish to have an open and honest relationship with my family because the dysfunction and lies were making me sick and I was forced to take the road less traveled if I wanted to be true to myself and God.

After years of combing through my memories and writing about it, I want to paraphrase my own version of that famous quote by Eric Lidell: God gives me insights from my life and despite the pain, when I write, I feel his pleasure.

In writing this memoir, I have learned a secret:

Memoir is not about the mean things that happened–it’s finding meaning in the things that happened.

How to Know When It’s NOT Your Fault

18 Aug

When I was five years old, I was standing outside the swimming pool when my mother asked me to watch my one year old brother while she went inside to get my new born sister who was crying. I watched my brother faithfully. I watched him flip over on his little paddle board. I watched his feet kicking in the air. I watched him just like she told me to until she ran back out the back door and thrust my baby sister into my arms and flipped him right side up. Like a good baby, he was holding his breathe. My Mom was naturally upset, but then she accused me of trying to drown my brother. For the most of my life, she has referred to this as “the time you tried to drown your brother.”

My dad came home and gave me a pep talk on how since I am the oldest, I need to watch out for the younger ones. This led to a lifetime of me serving my family long after my siblings were adults. By birth order, I felt responsible to make other people happy.

After studying child development in college, I discovered something about this incident. Children under the age of eight process words literally because they can’t think in abstract. I was a normal child who had no intentions of harming anyone. To be labeled as someone who tried to harm a sibling was unfair, but my mom probably didn’t realize this at the time. Plus I was standing outside the pool. I had no training for lifesaving. We had just put up the pool for my sister’s birthday and she took to it like a fish, while I was afraid of the water.

My mother gave me an impossible task and I was asked to play a game I could never win. What was even more unfair was the responsibility put on me by my father to serve my family at such an early age. This included cleaning house and childcare at that age, but later turned into giving them my babysitting money and later providing for my relatives and paying their bills while I often neglected my own. I was taught to put everyone else first because that is what Jesus required of me. Like Carol Cannon says in her book, Never Good Enough, “I learned to give myself away before I even had a self.” While the Circle of Giving requires us to give, such giving can only come from the heart.

My Own Person, cherilynclough.com,http://www.redbubble.com/people/littlered7/works/15253730-my-own-person-sunflower?asc=u&c=540742-survive-to-thrive

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Fast forward a few years and this concept of being responsible for others was extended when I was high school aged and wanted to go to school. My mom said not to mention my depression about not going to school because it might cause my dad to have a heart attack. She was asking me to choose between having a high school education and supposedly killing my father. There are names for this kind of gaslighting. My mother in law calls it a mind-F_, but to be nice for the internets, I will call it a mind-warp. It’s the same thing.

If you grew up with a narcissistic parent, chances are you have been given impossible mind-warps. Perhaps you felt responsible for the rest of your family.  Maybe you’ve even been told you will be responsible if you go no contact because someone was abusive to you. I have a friend who was accused of giving his mother cancer because he didn’t allow her to continue verbally and emotionally abusing him. These accusations are not only cruel and unfair, they are just plain wrong.

I had a friend who was suicidal a few years ago and I spent hours–no weeks listening to this person talk for hours on end. I tried to do everything they taught me as a volunteer at helpline. I did my best and yet this person lied about me and later told others I made it all up. That’s the day I walked away from the role of hero I accepted when I was five. Today, relationships have to pass three criteria if someone wants to stay in my life—respect, honesty and taking responsibility for their own choices.

  1. Respect

Many narcissistic people have very little respect for others. They would like to use your time and money and anything you are willing to give them to meet their needs. This is called narcissistic supply or narcissistic feed. It could be money or it could be ego stokes. In either way, the narc wants to use you. When you realize someone merely wants to use you, it’s time to move on, because there is no relationship without respect—anything less is simply a transaction. I say let them get a job and go to their own bank.

  1. Honesty

Very similar to respect, there is nothing to base a relationship on without honesty. Otherwise people are just pretending to be someone they are not. This is what happens when someone falls in love with a narc. Or even the fantasy of a trauma bond that some people cling to when their parents are proven incapable of loving them unconditionally. Even if you could believe their lies and ignore reality, you still wouldn’t have a real relationship. Don’t let people lie to you.

If someone uses you and then they lie about how they used you, it’s time to realize you are not their kind of people. You’re not the one making the choices here, the person who uses you and lies to you and about you is responsible for their behavior and lying and pretending to be someone they are not has consequences. Which brings us to number three—taking responsibility for self.

  1. Each Person is Responsible for Their Choices and Behavior

We are always responsible for self before we can be responsible to others. And there is a big difference between being responsible for others and being responsible TO others. When you have a job, you are responsible to do whatever you have agreed to do, but you are not responsible for how the other person reacts to what you do.

When you fly, you are told to put on your own oxygen mask before you help others. This is not selfish, but the only way to help others. To say putting on the mask will kill someone else who refuses to put on their own mask is unfair. They might never say that on a plane, but people use similar distortions in real life all based on the false idea we are responsible to please others while they abuse us and lie about us. I don’t buy it.

When people blame us because this person might die or will never be the same because we asserted our right to live drama free without manipulation, those blaming us are simply shifting the responsibility around. This is often the heart of dysfunction and codependency–refusing to be responsible for self and while blaming others for our choices. Yes, there was a time when I bought things for people instead of paying for my own bills, but it was my choice and when we know better, we do better. I can own that responsibility and I own the responsibility today to allow only true relationships in my life.

There are still warped people who will blame you for the choices others make because you supposedly failed to cover (lie) for them. It’s not you, it’s the narc. There will always be ignorant people who accuse you of not honoring your parents because you stood up for truth and respect. You won’t be able to help the blind, but remember this for yourself–honesty is always, always married to honor. You can’t have honor without honesty and you can’t honor someone who lies to you and about you.

Most of these mind-warps would be hilarious if they weren’t true and just in a movie. But sadly, mind-warps are the symptom of broken relationships with self. Before the narc had a broken relationship with you, they had a broken relationship with their own self. They refused to be honest with self and failed to give themselves respect and in turn, stopped being responsible for their own choices and looked for a scapegoat to continue their fantasy.

I’ve rarely met someone who is estranged from their parents or child who doesn’t still love them. It’s true there is a difference between narc shunning and no contact, but most people who go no contact only did it as a last resort because continuing to have contact was too much for their own health and sanity.

When people break any relationship by acting in dishonorable and disrespectful ways, you can still love them and pray for them from a distance even when they won’t say sorry, but you are not responsible for their choices and you are not obligated by scripture to meet their needs or hang out with them. Allow me to repeat, you are not responsible for the choices of others. God created us to live in freedom and it is not right to allow others to take it from us.

So How are We Responsible to God and Others?

God has asked us to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8), but how does this play out with those who are abusive to us? To do justly means once again to be honest and fair. This means we don’t pretend hitting children is okay. We don’t lie to protect the family secrets. We do justly because God does justly and God never changes or denies who He is to soothe the minds of warped human beings.

To love mercy, means we will be open to letters of apology and treat even those who have harmed us in a kind manner. Our God is a God of second chances and when someone sincerely asks us for a second chance, we can offer hope to them. But—(and when dealing with narcs there is a big but)–the person who has been abusive in the past will need to show sincerity and ask with honesty or it’s not real.

To walk humbly with God reminds us of the proverb, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” We are not better than others. We do not esteem even our abusers as less human or less made in the image of God than ourselves. We have simply learned there can be no relationship without these three—respect, honesty and responsibility. For those sincerely willing to try living an authentic life with these three criteria, we can always open the door, because with God, all things are possible.

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 

 

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

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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.

 

 

 

Go Where You are Celebrated

22 Jan

Kylie’s mother is not the kind that celebrates her daughter’s accomplishments. When Kylie decided to go to graduate school, her mother told her she would get too educated and never find a husband. When Kylie found the love of her life, her mother warned her that he was not the kind of man she had envisioned Kylie marrying and she figured they would be divorce in seven years. When Kylie had a baby, her mom wanted Kylie to have it baptized in her church, but since Kylie was now choosing a different belief system, her mother refused to come to the baby’s first birthday party.

When Kylie decided to write a book on happy parenting, her mother snorted that Kylie had no clues about parenting let alone happiness. When Kylie celebrated her tenth anniversary, her mom said she didn’t know what there was to celebrate because as far as she could see Kylie’s husband was a loser. Through all of her mother’s criticism, Kylie politely listens, but as soon as she gets off the phone, she snacks on anything she can find. Kylie is locked into a relationship with her mother where she is not celebrated.

Go Where You Are Celebrated, cherilynclough.com, littleredsurvivor.com

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Who dreams of NOT celebrating their child when they bring them home from the hospital? Most mothers are in love with their baby and imagine all the wonderful events in the future where they will be celebrating and supporting their child. Narcissistic parents might do the same, except the focus is on them.

Narcs hope to look good at their baby’s parties. They want to be thought of as the super mom who has the smartest kid so they will force their child to study to get good grades in every class. They want to have the picture perfect family at church, so the narc makes sure all their kids dress and act like models. Such celebration from a narc’s point of view is for maintaining their reputation. This is because narcs care more about what strangers think than how their fears of not looking good enough might affect their own children.

The narcissistic parent sees their child as a mirror to reflect their self and will tear down anything they see in you that contradicts their own values. As a matter of fact that is a game you can never win. Nothing is more damaging to the soul than trying to reflect someone else’s values and dreams. The only way we can live wholehearted lives is to live authentically and we can’t do that if we are constantly berated for being different than our parents.

A few years ago, I told a relative that I was going to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless. This relative is a firm vegan and had a lot to say about my mission. They felt I should be serving tofurky to the people under the bridge instead of offering them turkey. I realized this person was not interested in celebrating my cause, but preferred to criticize rather than help.  They were more concerned with being right, than serving people. I have never asked this person for advice or shared my projects since because it’s obvious they are more interested in being a critic than a support.

If your parents can only criticize you and refuse to acknowledge the good you are doing in this life, then make sure you find friends and family (and possibly new family) who celebrate you—not their image of what will make them look good, but who you actually are and what you dream of accomplishing in this world.

If you have suffered a lifetime of criticism from a narc parent, here are some comforting words:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. -Theodore Roosevelt

One thing we know about narcs is they like to project their issues on us. Someone’s mother is saying that to be celebrated is selfish. If you grew up in a church, you probably know one of the narc mind games includes saying anything you do for yourself is selfish. God himself celebrates (sings) over us depending on which version we read:

The Lord your God is with you.
He is a hero who saves you.
He happily rejoices over you,
renews you with his love,
and celebrates over you with shouts of joy.
-Zephaniah 3:17

If you have been in the arena and have brushed off the dirt and stood back up only to be pummeled with snarky comments, it’s not unchristian to go no contact, it’s time to go where you are celebrated. Start with God (if you are a believer), then look for God-like people. The kindred spirits who love to read the same books or people who act, write, sing or serve the homeless–whatever you like to do. Look for people who care about the same causes that you serve. Find the people who even when they disagree with you, are still willing to cheer you on. The world is full of narcs, but the world is also full of loving and good hearted people who are looking for someone to celebrate and it might as well be you.

The Narcissist’s Mirror

6 Jan

When many people hear the word narcissism, they think of the legend of Narcissus who was so vain he worshiped his image in a pond until he fell in and drowned. I once saw a cartoon of a father staring at his own reflection in a lake while his daughter kept calling out, “Daddy?!” The image suggested she was neglected while he adored himself. This cartoonist understood the neglect that comes from a narcissistic parent, but he only got it half right–because for many narcissistic parents, their child is the mirror.

Like many ACONs*, you may have been used like a mirror for your narcissistic parent. Such parents are not satisfied unless they can see their own values and choices displayed in their child. Narcissistic parents see their children as an extension of themselves, they use mind control to shape their children at a young age to become mini versions of themselves. If this is true, you may have been robbed of your ability to shine.

This mirroring pattern continues into adulthood and is manifested by parents quizzing their adult children on their religious beliefs, politics and spending habits. Appearances are everything to these narcissistic minds. They want all of their children to be in the church and vote as they would vote and eat what they would eat on holiday dinners. They want us to do as they would do so they can feel satisfied they have raised us to reflect them in the way they want to be portrayed in the world.

By refusing to acknowledge their child’s individuality, such parents are selfish to begin with and nothing you can do will fix this. As you pull away to become yourself, they will become more controlling, then disillusioned and bitter when you fail to live up to their expectations. As you begin to vote differently or leave the church or form your own holiday traditions, the war will intensify.

Listen to Your Heart , CherilynClough.com. www.etsy.com/shop/LittleRedSurvivorArt

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The battles are subtle at first, a glance of disappointment, the suggestion you might be letting down the whole family because you have chosen differently. But as most ACONs know, the failure to reflect our parents–to vote, marry and worship as they would have us live our lives eventually brings on a cascade of narcissistic behavior from gaslighting and scapegoating to the silent treatment.

There is no better time to reclaim your individuality than now. There is no better way to reclaim your boundaries by listening to your heart and standing up to let your voice be heard, but beware the narc parent will accuse you of everything from ruining the party to being ungrateful or disloyal or not honoring your parents. They might use everything from scripture and flying monkeys to lawyers to straighten you out.

When this happens it’s important to ground yourself these truths–

1. No one–not even a parent owns the choices of another human being. Slavery is defined as controlling another person’s choices.

2. God created you to be yourself–not an extension of your parents. Look in the mirror and recognize your own face.

3. You will never feel at peace until you step into your own individuality and live authentically.

As you listen to your own voice and the voice of your Maker, you will begin to shine. It might seem a little scary at first, but you can forge a new path from your family of origin. When you reach that fork in the road where the sign reads narc parent vs. your own choices, don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled, step into your individuality and shine.

*ACoN – Adult Children of Narcissists

PS I’m sharing this reblog from a popular post–while I work on my book. Thank you for your understanding and support!

It’s Not You, It’s the Narc

16 Dec

When Allie met Josh, he told her she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever met. Allie thought he was sweet because he was always giving her compliments on her work, her home and her personality. For the first time in her life she felt appreciated. As an ACoN* growing up with a negligent Narc father who barely noticed her, she thought she’d finally met the man of her dreams.

Fast forward a year and Allie was hurt when Josh suggested she lose some weight and get a new haircut to look younger. Allie was also beginning to notice how rude Josh could act to other people. Sometimes she was shocked to hear him lie to his mother which made her wonder if he lied to her too.

A few months later when Allie discovered he was cheating on her, Josh blamed it on her inability to keep him happy. Allie thought of all things she did to please him. She remembered how Josh had said she was perfect in the beginning and now she tried to figure out where she’d gone wrong.

Allie called up her friends asking them what was wrong with her that Josh would treat her this way. Friend after friend said it was not Allie’s fault, but it was Josh who was the obnoxious one. Allie hadn’t seen it before and she struggled to comprehend how a man who once had so many nice things to say about her, could turn and trash her now.

Allie had believed these compliments represented Josh’s true feelings, but nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing in their relationship had ever been about Allie. Josh’s compliments had merely been a way to win her affection so he could use her for narcissistic feed. Josh borrowed her money, expected her to cook and clean for him and wanted her to support his career, but he didn’t care about Allie’s needs at all. If she failed in any way to meet his expectations, Josh accused her of being selfish and trashed her accomplishments.

Josh’s goal was to manipulate Allie into trying harder to please him, while Allie’s goal was to restore what she thought was lost. But the truth was Allie was chasing something she’d never had in the first place. It was a painful lesson to learn, but Josh (like all Narcs) was a fake now and had been a fake all along.

When Josh left Allie, he blamed their break up on her. He called her a lazy nag because she didn’t like his cheating and didn’t meet his needs. He said if she really wanted it to work it out, she could’ve tried harder. After he left, Allie got sick and depressed. She missed work and isolated from her real friends because she felt used and thrown away by one person. Allie was just as beautiful and smart as she had been before, but her self-image had been twisted by a Narc.

One day a friend gave her the number of a good therapist and Allie decided to give counseling a try. Through counseling, Allie finally understood why her entire relationship with Josh had been a fraud. Nothing Josh said or did had never been about her–it had always been about Josh and his needs. Her lack of love from a negligent Narc father had allowed her to let a malignant Narc into her head and destroy her self-love.

Allie has learned to never allow a Narc to twist her mind and steal her joy with their petty insults. Josh never really knew her–Narcs don’t take time to care for others. She has decided she is worth having relationships with real people who are willing to invest in honest and loving ways.

After a few months Allie grew stronger and she was good to date again, but this time she had the boundaries in her head. Never again will she allow anyone else to approve or disapprove of her. Allie finally internalized the truth that whatever other people say and do is always about them—not her. If she allows herself to be flattered by the compliments of other people, she also sets herself up to be devastated by their insults.

This is an essential truth for all of us—whether it’s a parent, spouse or co-worker—whatever people say and do is never about you–it’s always about them. And it’s all the more relevant when dealing with a Narc.

*ACoNs —Adult Children of Narcissists

My Least Favorite Things

8 Dec

Here’s a little poem I wrote.
Try to imagine Julie Andrews singing it.

My Least Favorite Things

People who punish as much as they’re able,
Gossip and whining and pride on the table,
Gifts and affection all tied up with strings,
These are a few of my least favorite things.

Family secrets and abject denial,
Threatening and judging and people on trial
Sneers and snide comments and yelling that stings
These are a few of my least favorite things.

Unwise expectations that I should not tell,
Those who have created their own private hell,
Ostracization and hatred that clings,
These are a few of my least favorite things.

When I’m missing family dinners–
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my least favorite things
And then I don’t feel so bad.

-Cherilyn Clough